Cuties, a coffee shop and LGBTQ+ gathering space in East Hollywood, is at risk of shuttering. To prevent that, they’re trying something that’s become commonplace in media, but is still a bit unusual for a brick-and-mortar business. The owners have set up a Patreon account, allowing customers and supporters to contribute funds to help keep the project afloat.
The shop, which opened in July of 2017, received a flurry of attention for being a proactively queer-friendly place, catering to the community with social events, workshops, film screenings, and support groups, and hosting activist organizations that lack spaces of their own–all while providing the typical offerings of a hip, high-end coffee shop. Cuties is a queer social space that isn’t a bar or nightclub, making it accessible to young people and anyone uncomfortable in alcohol-oriented environments, which is rare and important.
But, as many cafés and small businesses do, Cuties had a rocky first year financially. Even as they developed a devoted following, operational costs have been difficult to sustain.
“Despite reducing unprofitable hours, reducing labor, and reducing waste, our daily sales just don’t cover the expenses of this shop,” Cuties co-founder Virginia Bauman wrote in a piece posted to Medium today. “We’ve been subsidizing its existence from day one and we are reaching the end of our ability to do so.”
In order to keep the doors open and continue to provide the programs and services the café has become known for, Cuties is seeking an infusion of $12,000 in funds from the Patreon supporters. Unlike Kickstarter, where a donor gives to a project once up front, Patreon works on a subscription model, where donors commit to be billed for a monthly contribution. The suggested tier is $10 each month, which includes a monthly cup of coffee and access to a subscribers-only online content feed, but contributions from $2 to $250 per month are encouraged, with special rewards for each level.
“Unless we are able to reach our Patreon goals in August, we will likely have to close our doors,” Bauman writes.
Right now, a counter on the Patreon page lists only $1,601 in monthly commitments, far short of the $12,000 goal, and they are encouraging supporters to come forward in the final days to help them continue providing something positive and unique in L.A.
“I love seeing faces light up when people come into the shop for the first time,” co-founder Iris Bainum-Houle wrote on Medium. “I adore watching folx connect over coffee. I delight in providing moments of whimsy and softness in a world not built for either.”
Cuties Coffee Bar, 710 N. Heliotrope Dr., East Hollywood
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