In a few weeks, the space that formerly housed Tropical Soul cafe could become home to a nonprofit — or a community space or a food cooperative. Its next incarnation ultimately depends on what owner Calvin “Kalipha” Maddox decides.
Standing inside the gutted dining room with Maddox, while his former co-owner Nadira Chase ferries boxes of pint glasses to a waiting car, it’s clear that one thing this place won’t be is a restaurant.
“They won,” Maddox says, letting out a sigh.
After 10 years in Jackson Ward, Tropical Soul, a Jamaican cafe, has shut its doors. Back in January, Maddox told Style Weekly that the restaurant suffered from a host of problems, not the least of which was a dip in sales that he attributed to frequent visits from police in response to complaints about excessive noise.
From Jan. 1 to its closing in July, Richmond police fielded 12 calls related to “unnecessary noise” at Tropical Soul, according to police records. The city was without a noise ordinance until late July when the City Council approved a new version that applies measurable thresholds for excessive noise. A previous version of the ordinance was ruled unconstitutional by a Richmond judge.
Maddox says that after he began speaking publicly in opposition to the noise ordinance, pressure from the city increased. Hampered by drop-by visits from regular police and members of the Community Assisted Public Safety code-enforcement team and the stalling economy, Maddox says, the business was unable to recover. “People aren’t going to come out and enjoy themselves if they know the cops are going to come in shut down the music,” he says.
Maddox won’t speak about Tropical Soul’s finances, but says that he had to stop the bleeding. He’s spent the last few weeks with workmen emptying the restaurant of tables, chairs and the bar. And the restaurant’s popular weekly poetry night, Tuesday Verses, has been moved to Addis, an Ethiopian restaurant in Shockoe Bottom.
Maddox, who owns the building that houses Tropical Soul, hints that he might reopen the bottom floor as an office space for local nonprofits. But will Tropical Soul the eatery make a comeback? “If there’s enough people to support it, maybe we can do T-shirts,” he says.