FoCo Cafe –– pay a little, or not at all

Collegian reporter, Matt Gabriel, talks to a homeless traveler that goes by the name of Fishtaco. Gabriel and another reporter, Cailley Biagini, went undercover on a Friday afternoon to discover what it's like to be homeless in Fort Collins.

Corrections: Officer J. Dobbins is from CSU police not Fort Collins Police Services. The Collegian regrets this error.


A new restaurant will be opening in Old Town that gives Fort Collins food budgets a break. Although the menu hasn’t yet been finalized, the prices have –– you pay what you can.

The FoCo Cafe, which is expected to open around March, will be located in a city-owned building at 225 Maple St. and will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The owners, Jeff and Kathleen Baumgardner, got the idea from a business in Denver, the SAME Cafe — So All May Eat — which works on the same premise.

Employment at the FoCo Cafe will be based on volunteers only and the survival will rely heavily on the support of the community.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Ryan Howerter, junior graphic design major. “I’ve seen other ‘pay what you can’ businesses and both the people who can afford it and those who can’t usually benefit from it.”

Twenty-two percent of Colorado families with children deal with some sort of hunger problem and places like the FoCo Cafe are aiming to solve that, according to a recent study by the Hunger Free Colorado Organization.

“In today’s economy, especially in Fort Collins where the cost of living is high, it’ll probably help a lot of people,” said Cody Vanden Bos, manager at Dazbog Coffee.

Some Fort Collins residents see downsides. At a recent City Council meeting, a few residents stated their concern for having the poor and the homeless meandering around their community, saying they may pose a threat.

However, CSU Police Officer J. Dobbins said he doesn’t see a problem, especially since the cafe will only be open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I’ve seen donation-only restaurants overseas in places like Italy and they all work fine,” Dobbins said.

Their location — which is right around the corner from the Larimer County Courthouse — may deter some community members who are nervous about the poor and homeless posing any sort of threat.


“I guess there could be problems, but overall, I think it’s a good thing to try,” Howerter said.

Added Dobbins: “I guess the only problem would be people leaving with full stomachs.”

Collegian Staff Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at