Café that charged a ‘man tax’ and gave women priority seating is going out of business

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A lesbian-owned, vegan coffee shop in Brunswick, Australia, that made international headlines in 2017 for charging a voluntary 18 percent “man tax” will close its doors for good Sunday after less than two years in business.

Handsome Her, which opened as a “space for women, by women,” received backlash for what critics called reverse sexism. The café asked male patrons upon checkout if they wanted to pay an optional surcharge meant to represent the gender pay gap and offered female patrons priority seating.

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While the business did not confirm or deny rumors of bankruptcy, co-owner Alexandra O’Brien said the Handsome Her team will continue to pursue its mission to drive change with “hands-on” work across Australia. O’Brien said allegations of sexism only proved “how fragile masculinity is” and confirmed the need to “confront and dismantle patriarchy.”

The business’ apparent failure sparked mixed reactions online. While some social media users praised the Handsome Her team as “heroes” and “lesbian feminist activists,” others called them “man-haters” and said the cafe’s impending closure proved that “sexism in business is a bad idea.”

In a Facebook post titled “A Handsome Farewell,” O’Brien said the café opened “to carve out a swathe of space to prioritize women and women’s issues,” but instead became a “punching bag” while “gentlemen’s social clubs live on and strong around Melbourne and the world over.”

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Handsome Her conducted business for the last time on April 14 but will hold one final day of “story-telling, dancing, singing, eating and drinking” on Sunday. The celebration will include a “pay as you feel” scheme and all proceeds will be donated to Maiti Nepal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to help the victims of sex-trafficking in Nepal, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.

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