The head of the Tehran police information department, Mehdi Amahdi, justified the closures on October 27 by saying the booksellers' union does not allow two separate professions -- namely, selling books and selling refreshments -- to be practiced together.
But the sudden strict enforcement of regulations seems to target the writers and intellectuals who gather at literary cafes, rather than the business owners.
Hafez Mussavi, a writer and publisher in Tehran, told Radio Farda that he believes the crackdown is linked to a broader pattern in which Islamic authorities have stepped up efforts to suppress dissent across all segments of society.
"I think this is part of moves that include, for example, the closure of newspapers. It means that they are just waiting for an excuse to prevent cultural activities or limit them," Mussavi said.
The move comes amid a fresh crackdown this year on dissidents and the political opposition.
Along with newspaper closures, many intellectuals, teachers, and activists have been targeted by the regime. In August, more than 650 Iran-based activists signed an open letter condemning the growing pressure on students, journalists, and others, saying that many have been imprisoned on politically motivated charges.
Mussavi says he's unsure whether the cafe closures reflect a clear new policy. "But in my view, the general line is to limit and put pressure on independent cultural centers," he said.