L.A. lacks a genuine 24-hour craft coffeehouse. Sure, a few respectable alternatives exist, but writers and Wi-Fi leechers generally rely on local diners, 7-Eleven parking lots, and supermarket cafés for a shitty late-night coffee.
But back in 2012, two New Mexico natives nearly died trying to bring something craft, with a punk edge, to the City of Angels.
“I lost my marriage and everything in my life for that place,” says Cameron Markham, 33, co-founder of C Plus, formerly located on 1302 South Brand Boulevard in Glendale, between a Subaru dealership and a windowless bar called Tony's.
Markham and his partner Charlie Bird, 34, picked Glendale because they got a “wicked deal on the rent.” After jack-hammering a concrete box up to code, they laid out a few “Golden Rules” that would both define their ethos, and stir up controversy. The first rule was “no assholes,” which was followed by “don't ask us to turn down the music.”
After opening on August 11, 2012, C Plus quickly became the city's only take-no-shit, DIY punk coffeehouse.
The rules were written on the walls like a declaration of war against douchebags.”Beware of both of us ye d-bags,” wrote Bird, replying to a snooty Yelp reviewer who didn't like the service at C Plus. And if you didn't tip, you were shamed by the fifth rule: “Tip or make coffee at home.” C Plus served coffee like Henry Rollins served ice cream, and if you didn't like it, they didn't want you to come back — especially if you asked them to turn down the music.
Their punk rock soundtrack never stopped playing. For 24 hours a day, punk was bouncing off the walls of C Plus as if you were at a record store that sold only stuff by the Ramones, Bad Religion, Black Flag and Green Day.
Markham and Bird even named their cold-water-brewed iced coffee “Brain Stew,” after a Green Day song, and invited customers to write all over the walls of their trashy toilet. Within weeks, the entire toilet turned into a sticky wall of offensive dick jokes, Simpsons characters, and dedications to punk legends such as Ska'D 4 Life, for the Specials.
If a DIY venue like the Smell was a coffeehouse, it would have been C Plus: dimly lit, with steel classroom chairs, charcoal black walls with hand-drawn video game doodles, and TV sets stacked in the corner running nothing but white noise. It felt a little like an MTV-style detention center for Gen-X misfits.
True to its DIY ethos, the whole thing was run on a shoestring. “We almost died,” says Markham. “My partner quit his [other] job and worked 18 hours a day. We basically never slept.”
The punk attitude kept the regulars coming back. A one-legged South African punk girl would help Bird stay awake by coming in and chatting him up.
“You either got it, or you didn't,” says Markham. Glendale didn't seem to get it. On September 27, 2013, C Plus closed, after just over a year of being in business.
Before leaving, Markham left note on the window: “QC Punks Never Die.” The note was a Street Fighter arcade game reference for the “quarter circle special moves.” Punks love classic arcade fighters.
While Markham and Bird didn't divulge all the litigious details, it appears that the property owner evicted them once his empty storefront was renovated, at the C Plus owners' expense, into a valuable retail space. The property owner allegedly called the Glendale Building & Safety Division in an attempt to highlight minor code violations, and before long, Markham and Bird had to turn off their street sign. That was the beginning of the end for C Plus.
After being pushed out, Markham sued the property owner. As a result, the location's permits were revoked. The former site of C Plus remains a vacant storefront lot to this day.
Once again, L.A. was left without a craft coffeehouse that was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's no hope for a C Plus sequel, either.
“I'll never do it again, not like that,” says Markham, who now runs two restaurants, one in L.A. and one in S.F., with Charlie Bird on his staff.
The legend of C Plus lives on in their punk rock playlist — the soundtrack of their brief DIY run as L.A.'s punkest coffeehouse.