Handsome Her has been controversial from the get-go. The socially minded vegan cafe launched two years ago with an unconventional pricing policy: for one week each month, men were encouraged to pay an optional 18 per cent surcharge on their bill, to raise awareness about the gender pay gap.
“I do want people to think about it, because we’ve had this [pay discrepancy] for decades and decades, and we’re bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit,” owner Alex O’Brien told Broadsheet when the Sydney Road, Brunswick cafe launched.
And while Handsome Her’s social mission went beyond the optional tax, which was donated to women’s charities – for example, it challenged takeaway coffee waste with an emergency mug wall – the surcharge attracted a lot of negative attention (a look at comments on the cafe’s recent Instagram posts should give you an idea).
Now, Handsome Her is closing down. O’Brien took to Facebook with a parting message this week.
"We’ve never shied away from controversy in the spirit of social justice and it seems fitting that we go out in the same style in which we came in: a whirlwind of sad, angry male tears," the post says. It goes on to insist the closure is not because of the backlash or because the business is no longer profitable.
"As much as people would love to believe it, sorry but the [man] tax did not run our business into the ground ... we have sold the business because we are young, educated and off on our next adventure! For those of you who have run your own small business, you know how much time, blood, sweat and tears it takes, and we are looking forward to a slower, more deliberate way of living out in the world and putting our feminist, vegan, low-waste politics into practice."
You have until Sunday 28 April to pop into Handsome Her for a taro latte, pulled jackfruit burger or tofu benedict. The final day of service will be a pay-as-you-feel event that’ll continue until the eatery’s food reserves are gone. Proceeds will be donated to Maiti Nepal, a charity that protects Nepali girls and women from trafficking and domestic violence.
Handsome Her’s final service will be Sunday April 28 at 206 Sydney Road, Brunswick.