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Nine months after fire gutted Java Monkey, owner decides to close the business for good

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Nine months after fire gutted Java Monkey, owner decides to close the business for good

The Java Monkey in Decatur before it was destroyed by a fire two years ago. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

This story has been updated. 

Java Monkey, a Decatur institution serving the community for over 25 years, won’t be coming back, the owner confirmed.

The coffee shop has been closed since a November fire gutted the building and damaged nearby businesses. The man accused of starting that fire, former Java Monkey employee Rickey Thomas, remains in jail, according to county records.

Michael S. Webb, Thomas’ attorney, said his client “strongly denies that he set the fire.”

“The state is yelling great balls of fire, while all they have for evidence is a few smoldering embers,” Webb said.

The owner of Java Monkey planned to reopen the business at some future date after the extensive damage from the fire and smoke had been cleaned up. But recently the Java Monkey Facebook page vanished, the first clue that the business would not return.

David Stickland, the father of owner Lora De Roover, told Decaturish that his daughter hasn’t emotionally recovered from the fire. He noted that a new coffee shop, B-Side, has opened hundreds of feet away in the old Cakes & Ale Space. He said the longtime customers didn’t like the changes Java Monkey had to make to become profitable.

“People’s attitudes are just wrong there,” he said.

Following the publication of this story, Stickland commented on the Decaturish Facebook page to clarify that he was “not blaming any customers” for Java Monkey’s closure.

“We were doing very well,” he said. “I talked about the attitude of some people after the fire happened.”

Roover implemented some things that weren’t popular with some customers, including switching to Lavazza coffee, made by an Italian company, and taking some food items off the menu, like salads. The company also stopped selling alcohol, but got a new alcohol license a week before the fire happened.

Stickland said the coffee shop was headed in the right direction.

“I did make it work,” he said. “But somebody burned it down.”

Other businesses affected by the fire have reopened.

The building’s owner wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The name Java Monkey currently lives on with Java Monkey Speaks — currently called Java Speaks — a weekly poetry open mic event that took place at Java Monkey for years. The event has become nomadic since the shop closed, moving to different venues around town, trying to find a good fit.

Currently, the event is being held at the Ammazza restaurant in Decatur every Sunday night starting at 8 p.m. The restaurant is located at 314 E Howard Ave, Decatur, GA 30030.