No Filter Coffee Fest returning after pandemic hiatus, celebrating ‘resiliency’ of small businesses

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Something is brewing at Camp North End. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, No Filter Coffee Fest is returning to Charlotte.

The festival, previously known as POUR Coffee Festival, will be hosted at Camp North End on Sept. 25, with tickets on sale in advance starting at $25. 

No Filter Coffee Fest started in Charlotte in 2018 and was aimed at “bridging the gap” between passionate people in the coffee industry and coffee drinkers, according to festival co-founder Matt Dudley.

Dudley, along with co-founder Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp and event partner Erin Hunter from Lets Meet CLT, hopes the return of the festival is a cause for celebration for coffee lovers of all backgrounds.

“We wanted to give everybody kind of a new experience, and everybody to come to (1) have a good time, but (2) to walk out knowing something that they didn’t know before .. having a greater appreciation for specialty coffee,” Dudley said.

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The festival isn’t just returning. It’s bigger and better this time around. Dudley said where the previous festival was located in the production area of local breweries, this year’s event will be at the Ford Building at Camp North End, the same spot that’s been home to the Van Gogh Exhibit and the Crayola Exhibit. 

The change in venue is also part of an effort to keep COVID-19 safety protocols in mind. The festival is requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, and has staggered, time-specific tickets aimed at controlling crowd sizes.

Ticketholders will get a tasting cup to keep, and unlimited pours from the participating roasters.

“We’ve got 24 roasters this year, which is about double the number that we had in previous years, we’ve also added an educational space, we have a retail space,” Dudley said. “So if you walk in, you experience something new that you’ve never seen before a new brewing method that inspires you to go and recreate that at home, you’ll be able to walk over to the retail space, purchase equipment to do that, and walk out and have that in your — have that same experience in your own home.”

With the festival back in the Queen City, Dudley said the festival includes roasters across the Carolinas and into Georgia but has a concentration on Charlotte roasters. One of the Charlotte roasters participating in the festival is Enderly Coffee Company, based in Charlotte’s Enderly Park neighborhood just northwest of the city center.

Enderly Coffee Company owner Tony Santoro said the cafe first opened in the neighborhood in 2018, but the wholesale business started back in 2012. Santoro and his wife were teachers with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools but realized they couldn’t afford to both be teachers with two children.

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Santoro took his “backyard hobby” of roasting coffee and turned it into a business, eventually quitting his job as a teacher.

“It’s been an exciting three years,” Santoro said. “We’re growing a lot with our city and just excited to continue to meet people and connect with our end customer.”

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Santoro said the business has been able to make it through the pandemic this far while keeping a full staff by trying side projects such as a weekly home delivery service.

He said he hopes people at the festival see Enderly Coffee Company as a place to go explore, even if it is outside of their neighborhood.

“This is our third time participating with the coffee festival,” Santoro said. “And it’s a lot of fun every single time we get to do it, we get to meet so many people and just network within our industry.”

The small batch roaster’s motto rings true: People first, coffee always.

“It is about the coffee, but it’s really about the people,” Santoro said. “I want people to come and interact with our brand and just be, just open their eyes to what else is out there in Charlotte.”

The festival also allows businesses within the coffee industry to connect and collaborate. Santoro said being together in one building provides the opportunity to discuss overcoming struggles and plans for growth.

“You kind of have that camaraderie when you’re with other people who know the struggles that you’re going through,” Santoro said.

After a hard two years for so many small businesses, the festival offers a chance to look to the future.

“They found ways through creativity, and, and through finding new channels for their product to continue to thrive throughout the pandemic, and they’re stronger today as a result,” Dudley said. “So that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to about our event is it’s a way to celebrate that — their resiliency.”

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