Cuties, L.A.’s only queer focused coffee shop, has closed

Cuties Coffee Shop

Cuties, Los Angeles’ only queer focused coffee shop, has closed permanently. Photo: Facebook image

Cuties, Los Angeles’ only queer focused coffee shop, has closed permanently.

Cuties Coffee Shop

The East Hollywood coffee and espresso bar, which opened in July 2017, had been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but still hosted virtual events for the community, particularly for queer and transgender people of color: a meditation group, a book club, and relaxing techniques.

Cuties also was a safe space for people who are gender nonconforming. (Wide Eyes Open Palms, a queer owned and operated coffee shop in Long Beach, is still open for business.)

But former owner and CEO Virginia Bauman said on social media Friday that Cuties’ will not re-open. All events and activities will remain online.

Bauman, who identifies as a transgender woman, also said that general manager Sasha Jones is the organization’s new CEO. Bauman has no ownership or equity in Cuties, she said.

“This brand began with two white folks,” Bauman said. “If this project is to continue to fulfill its original values, it comes with ownership and leadership, with both centering Blackness.”

Bauman said that Cuties’ mission as an organization is to “center belonging. We have always attempted to create an infrastructure that supports acceptance for folks in this community, as best we can through many imperfect vehicles. A break-even coffee shop used to be our main vehicle.”

The keys to the shop were returned to the landlord on August 1, Bauman said.

Cuties Coffee Shop

Sasha Jones is the new CEO of Cuties. She was the general manager. Previous CEO Virginia Bauman thanked Jones for her “leadership.” Photo: Facebook image.

Previous to the brick-and-mortar location, Cuties started as a monthly pop up for coffee and conversation points called Queers, Coffee & Donuts.

Closing the doors

While Cuties’ doors are closed, Jones will be paid from funds the community has given through Cuties’ Patreon page, Bauman said.

Cuties didn’t generate enough revenue to pay for their Heliotrope Drive location, just off Melrose Avenue near Los Angeles City College. They’ve been accumulating debt to their landlord, hoping that they would re-open later and pay the debt down over time, Bauman said. Cuties previously had struggled financially, which motivated them to setup the Patreon page in 2018.

This time, however, Bauman didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

“As of August 1st, we turned over the keys. Moving forward, all of our efforts will be online,” she said.

Sasha Jones new CEO

Bauman also thanked Jones for her leadership.

“I can not emphasize enough just how much I have grown from being able to witness her leadership,” Bauman said.

“It breaks my heart that we don’t have a space to gather because Sasha was able to bring to bear our mission in that space for so many people in the community.

“It’s important to officially acknowledge,” Bauman said, “that my vision for the shop and how it can best serve the community were only realized when my own presence and contributions were decentered enough for Sasha’s leadership and work to have space.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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