There were claims last night that Costa was in crisis, as complaints came flooding in about the vulgar and unhygienic habits of customers at its Wandsworth Southside branch.
The much-loved coffee emporium, whose fortunes WandsworthEye has eagerly followed since its inception, occupies a prime retail site at the very heart of the borough. On a sunny day, the glitterati of SW18 can sometimes be seen whiling away a pleasant hour under the unfurled sunshades.
For those who dwell in the locality, Costa's arrival presaged the start of an exciting new era for Wandsworth - one in which suave Mediterranean ways would hold sway over southwest London. 'I can remember when Costa would unfurl four parasols every morning,' recalled pensioner Doris Elzheimer with moist eyes. 'Oh, those were heady days... But now you're lucky to even get three. Things have definitely got worse since the Liberal Democrats came to power.'
And concern was mounting last night that the elegant ambience of Costa Southside was coming under increasing threat from its popularity among the lower socio-economic classes - not all of whom know how to behave with decorum in a public place.
There were reports of extensive littering by yobbish elements, of single mothers chainsmoking in tracksuits and dropping their detritus on the ground, and even of working-class children smearing bogeys on the undersides of tables when nobody was looking. 'I just despair of these people,' said local resident Desiree Saltpetre. 'They have all these wonderful little chicken nugget-type places to go to and spend their benefit money, so why do they have to spoil coffee houses for busy professionals like me?'
Fears were also rising last night that the borough's tramps and vagabonds had Costa Southside in their sights. 'Thanks to WandsworthEye's trenchant reporting, we all know the devastation the tramps and vagabonds have been wreaking on the butterflies by the Wandle,' said regular customer Wilhelmina Plentibott. 'Surely it's only a matter of time before they find out about Costa Coffee's lavish facilities and try to winkle their way in without paying. It would just be typical of the tramps and vagabonds to sit dozing at tables, taking up much-needed space. It's all the fault of the Liberal Democrats.'
As WandsworthEye went to press last night, middle-class mothers were already fleeing Costa Southside, saying they could no longer tolerate the swirling sea of fag butts and the crude language of the lesser customers. 'If Costa would bring back the fourth sunshade, then all would be forgiven,' said Tarquinetta Tiara-Tempest as she headed speedily for the Old York Road. 'But for now I fear I shall have to imbibe my beverages elsewhere. Good day to you.'