Church on break from coffee biz

Pastor Clint Roberts makes it clear that his church isn’t going out of business — just the coffee house.

On Friday, the Main Street Coffee House, for nearly three years the home to Summit Church, will close its business doors at 149 S. Main St. in downtown Salt Lake City. On Sunday, Pastor Roberts will conduct the final church services in the building.

After that, Stephanie Lankford’s popular coffee recipes will make their way across the street to Gandolfo’s Deli, and the pastor will take his casual, Bible-centered Christian church to a location yet to be confirmed.

“We’re looking at a couple of spots,” says Roberts. “We want to be in the same general community, somewhere between downtown and the university. But we won’t be doing the coffee business any more. There’s no financial need for us to have that business, and it’s a good thing, because it was never profitable, except for during the Olympics.”

The relocation of the coffee church on Main Street is news because of the role it has played the past few months as a pawn in the dispute between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Crazy Goat Saloon/strip club. The LDS Church wants the city to revoke the Crazy Goat Saloon’s sexually oriented business license on the grounds that it violates a number of city ordinances, among them the rule that no establishment can allow employees to take almost all their clothes off within 1,000 feet of a church (I’m paraphrasing here).

The LDS Church would have used its own downtown places of worship to satisfy the 1,000-foot rule, but Temple Square is 1,202 feet from the Crazy Goat’s property (by my pacing). The Main Street Coffee House/Summit Church is 840 feet (again, my pacing) — a measurement the LDS Church included in its complaint to the city, thus producing the irony of a church that bans coffee aligning with a church that not only doesn’t ban it, but brews it and sells it — all in the name of stopping strippers.

Even vices have their pecking order.

It should be pointed out that the city never ruled whether the Main Street Coffee House legally qualified as a church, as the attorneys representing the LDS Church’s interests contended, or as a retail business, as the Crazy Goat Saloon’s lawyers believed.

Now, with the church leaving Main Street, it may or may not be a moot point. City Attorney Ed Rutan will only say, “That’s an issue that will have to be looked at. I can’t comment on it one way or the other.”

But one thing is certain. Summit Church won’t be caught in the middle anymore.

“As a moral issue, there was never any question where we stood,” says Pastor Roberts. “We’re in absolute moral opposition to the kind of thing there (the strippers at the Crazy Goat). However, the degree to which you get involved legally is always a gray area. If all Christians in the world thought it was their duty to get rid of all those kinds of businesses, I suppose we’d be investing everything we could to get rid of Las Vegas and Bangkok, two cities believed to be among the worst on the planet. We don’t do that. We funnel funds there, but for the church, not for legal battles. However, I am also aware that there is a time and place where you do take a stand legally.

“But the legal issue had nothing to do with our decision to close down,” Pastor Roberts adds as a kind of final benediction on the subject. “It was no secret we weren’t doing well in the coffee business. We needed to be wise and good stewards of money.”

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