The COVID-19 pandemic has run many businesses into the ground due to tight restrictions and stay at home orders. In California, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy has led restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to ebb and flow through the constant modifications needed to stay in business. For queer spaces, this has been an especially arduous feat as we have seen bar after lounge after club close down because of lack of support. In West Hollywood, there has been an onslaught of iconic queer spaces that have closed down leaving the LGBTQ+ community wondering what will become of one of America’s most popular boystowns.
Still, there are businesses that have hope and are putting faith in the queer community to keep supporting in any way they can. For a trio of entrepreneurs from Southern California, the pandemic will not stop their dream of opening up Noa Noa Place, one of the only queer Latinx spaces around.
Noa Noa Place is a new restaurant and bar opening in the heart of Boyle Heights on December 5th. The new venture comes from the minds of friends and business partners Luis Octavio, Deysi Serrano, and Donaji Esparza. The group wants to make an impact and show everyone that Latin nights are not a one night a week themed type of thing. Instead, Noa Noa Place will be a 24/7 queer Latinx space where everyone feels represented.
Co-owner Luis Octavio says:
It has always been important to have a place like this. It just so happens that this pandemic has taught many of us to tap into that creativity and pivot and for us at Noa Noa Place, this was our opportunity, during a time where visibility is more important than ever. This year we’ve seen time and time again that being visible, vigilant and informed is important. So now more than ever its important to take up space, show visibility, and represent our queer Latinx community.
The space, which is aptly named after a song by the late Mexican singer/songwriter Juan Gabriel, will be a carefully curated space celebrating queer Latinidad through themed nights, patron-controlled music, specialty drinks, and food. Noa Noa Place, as described in Juan Gabriel’s song, is “un lugar de ambiente, donde todo es differente” (a place with atmosphere where everything is different) and the new bar owners hope their patrons will capture this same sense of pride.
Juan Gabriel, who will forever be known as El Divo de Juárez or JuanGa, was a Mexican icon who passed away in 2016 and left fans around the world heartbroken. JuanGa’s flamboyant nature and IDGAF attitude was admired by many and he was loved by women and men alike. He was a queer icon who led a very public, but very private life. Whenever asked about his sexuality, he would respond “Lo que se ve, no se pregunta” (what is seen, should not be asked)–a true champion for the LGBTQ+ community, even in conservative Mexico.
JuanGa’s famous anthem will be the foundation on which Noa Noa Place will take form…eventually.
Due to State of California restrictions, the Noa Noa Place team has resorted to having a limited grand opening, offering TO GO services and socially distanced Instagrammable photo opportunities that will give patrons a glimpse of what is in store when COVID-19 is a thing of the past.
Luis Octavio shares:
We started thinking we were at least going to have the patio to start off with and now we won’t even have that. The biggest issue is, of course, the safety of our team and guests, while still providing an experience and keeping the place open. Which is why we created our TO GO experience. Where you’ll be able to visit, order, and at the very least try our food and drinks.
Luis shares that it has been a challenge getting this space launched during a pandemic, but that they have not used other establishments as an example since it appears that many who are still visiting L.A. based queer spaces are not quite practicing distancing or being as careful. They hope Noa Noa Place will keep visitors healthy while still enjoying an escape from the world.
There’s no telling when it will be safe for us to go back to the bars and celebrate our queer little hearts out, but Noa Noa Place is planning for some great stuff when that is possible. There are plans for every night to be different. From karaoke nights, to 80s themed nights, novela nights, and of course Sunday Brunch, which will be appropriately called El Recalentado (reheated) Brunch.
Noa Noa Place will celebrate their modified grand opening on Saturday, December 5th at 11 a.m. with Mistress of Ceremonies, L.A. based drag performer Melissa Befierce.
Noa Noa Place is located at 2321 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA
For more information and updates on Noa Noa Place, follow them on Instagram.