SPONSORED: A new LGBT landmark in Hollywood is a brewing – Los Angeles Blade

The 1,600-square-foot Liberation Coffee House is a unique social enterprise that connects the Center’s intergenerational Culinary Arts program with a vibrant community space. (Photo courtesy LA LGBT Center)

Excitement is brewing in Hollywood at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and McCadden Place with the opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s highly anticipated Liberation Coffee House!

Located at the Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the 1,600-square-foot café and community space will be operated and staffed by graduates of the Center’s intergenerational Culinary Arts program, a three-month training program launched in 2019 to prepare LGBTQ youth and seniors for employment in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

“When many nonprofits have closed as a result of COVID-19, the Los Angeles LGBT Center has persevered. Not only have we continued to provide vital services as first-responders on the front lines, but we have also developed new programs in response to the pandemic—and we never skipped a beat in completing our long-planned café,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

“Connecting community is at the heart of the Center, and we couldn’t be more excited about this moment of progress. We are opening with less fanfare than we had imagined and shifting how the Liberation Coffee House will operate during the pandemic, but the heart and soul of this incredible social enterprise is happening just as we dreamed: connecting LGBTQ seniors and youth to work together in creating delicious food and drink for our entire community,” Jean said. “We invite everyone to come and enjoy a taste of Liberation!”

The word “liberation” shares a special connection with the LGBT community. During the movement’s early years, activists demanded “gay liberation.”

In 1971 the Center, known then as the Gay Community Services Center, opened its first “Liberation House” in Los Angeles, providing room and board for $1.50 a day for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults. It was the nation’s first facility of its kind. By 1972, six Liberation Houses were open throughout Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center (GCSC), 1974. Much like the Liberation House program, the GCSC was housed in a run-down establishment that offered affordable rent. ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries. (Photo by Pat Rocco.)

A photograph of the 1971 Liberation House is part of the collection of enlarged black-and-white historical Center photographs adorning the walls throughout the café.

“It’s liberation for a new generation at the Center,” said Center Director of Culinary Training and Operations Nick Panepinto.

“We’re opening an LGBTQ space where everyone is welcome while, at the same time, expanding the opportunities for our LGBTQ seniors and youth who are part of the Culinary Arts program. Our program’s students are already using our state-of-the-art commercial kitchen at the Campus to prepare hundreds of meals a day for the Center’s clients,” said Panepinto. “Now, through Liberation Coffee House, we can provide expanded training and permanent employment opportunities to program graduates—all while preparing delicious food and beverages for everyone to enjoy.”

In addition to serving Verve Coffee, Rishi Tea, and pastries by locally-owned Bakers Kneaded, the café will sell grab-and-go salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, and other gourmet food items made entirely by Culinary Arts students.

“It’s all been very intentional—from our partners and the products we’re serving to the design of the space and staff that we’re hiring—to foster pride, passion, and warmth in this community-driven space,” said Center Manager of Café and Catering Erin Muscatelli. “It’s a really good way to introduce the Center to the outside community who might not know a lot about us.”

A celebration of the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles also inspired the design choices of the Liberation Coffee House.

The interior palette of red, orange, yellow and green—which represent life, healing, sunlight, and nature, respectively, as part of the LGBTQ Pride flag—reference the positive, optimistic, and free spirit of the LGBTQ community and Los Angeles. A series of overlapping sheer fabric panels hung along the café’s floor-to-ceiling windows create a gradient of color reminiscent of California’s spectacular sunsets.

“The café’s interior space was inspired by artist Keith Haring whose vivid colors and simple lines evoke energy and life. Building on this framework, the soft-curved architectural elements of the café’s walls and furnishing represent the notion of fluidity,” said architect and designer Oonagh Ryan at ORA. “

The Center’s brief was to create a space that is welcoming to all, and our response was to create a flexible space that is fun, approachable, and accommodating to a variety of uses,” Ryan said. “We very much enjoyed our collaboration with the Center to make this project come to life, and we wish the very best to them and Liberation Coffee House.”

While the day‐to‐day use is a retail coffee shop, Liberation Coffee House’s agile space layout can be reconfigured quickly to accommodate gallery openings, meetings, lectures, celebrations, networking mixers, and other community events.

“Having just completed the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, it was only fitting that Swinerton came back to build the beautiful Liberation Coffee House for the Los Angeles LGBT Center,” said Swinerton Vice President – Division Manager Lia Tatevosian. “We are so honored to build this project that enhances a center which advocates for everything we believe in as a socially responsible company serving our community.”

Starting Monday, August 17, the Liberation Coffee House, located at 6725 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles 90038 will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Hours of operation may change based on city and county mandates pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety precautions in accordance with all COVID-19 regulations have been implemented, including the installation of plexiglass windows at the ordering counter; availability of hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes; cashless payments by way of credit and debit cards; and the closure of indoor seating. Social distancing and face coverings will be enforced for all café team members and customers.

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