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East Austin's Blue Cat Cafe closes following years of controversy

East Austin's Blue Cat Cafe closes following years of controversy

Blue Cat Cafe Austin
Blue Cat Cafe has shuttered in East Austin. Blue Cat Cafe/Facebook

After more than three years in business, East Austin’s controversial Blue Cat Cafe has quietly closed at 95 Navasota St. The owners confirmed the shutter in a short message on February 5.

The saga of the Blue Cat Cafe began months before owner Rebecca Gray and business partner Jacques Casimir signed the lease in October 2015. In February 2015, landowners F&F Real Estate Ventures razed the building housing piñata and party supply store Jumpolin at 1401 E. Cesar Chavez St., taking with it store merchandise and other property.

The incident galvanized East Austin and became emblematic of the city’s gentrification battle. Although F&F claimed it had sent owners Monica and Sergio Lejarazu multiple eviction notices, the Lejarazus countered that they received no notification that the building was up for demolition.

The Lejarazus filed a lawsuit, which was later settled in December 2015, and a battle raged in the court of public opinion — especially after F&F’s Jorden French compared the business to a “house that was infested with roaches” in an interview with CultureMap at the time.

In October 2015, the firestorm over Jumpolin intensified with the opening of Blue Cat. The concept, a cafe offering customers the chance to play with adoptable cats, sat on a property adjacent to the former store, which became Blue Cat's parking lot.

Community groups staged protests from the first day of business, accusing Blue Cat of breaking a boycott of all F&F properties. A series of incidents, among them a 2016 interview Gray gave to conspiracy website InfoWars and a violent 2017 incident involving Gray’s brother, kept the cafe in the news — including an explosive Texas Monthly piece published in April 2018.

In their statement, the Blue Cat Cafe's owners said they are “awaiting peace,” and that “reopening information [was] to be determined." An exact closing date was not provided and multiple follow-up attempts went unanswered.

"We apologize only for the inability to serve and operate at this time, and will do our best for you and mew,” they wrote.