Colorful coffee shop fuels vital services, culinary program at LA's LGBT Center

The Liberation Coffee House at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and McCadden Place in Hollywood has offered much more than good brews and pastries to the local community. 

Located at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s flagship Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the 1,600-square-foot café and community space help support the center’s decades-long mission. 

"You can walk right into the coffee house and learn more about the center and just how far each purchase goes.  Someone is not just buying a cup of coffee, they are actually contributing to the life-saving services here," said Manager Erin Muscatelli.  "We do healthcare, employment, housing and a number of different services."

The name Liberation Coffee House is a nod to the liberation houses that were the Center’s precursor. The Gay Community Services Center, which first opened in 1971, provides rooms for homeless LGBT youth and adults in need.

The coffee house is operated and staffed by graduates from the Center’s intergenerational Culinary Arts program, a three-month training program launched in 2019 to prepare LGBTQ youth and seniors from the Center for employment in the restaurant and hospitality industries. 

"We welcome students into our kitchen for a 300-hour job training program. They spend 100 hours doing a boot camp with our executive chef working on the skills they need to work in a commercial kitchen," said Culinary Director Nick Panapinto. 

All of the revenue from the LGBT Center’s social enterprise is reinvested into its life-changing programs and services. 

"We work very closely with the city and county to work on programs like this where we realize that curing the homeless problem in Los Angeles isn’t just about providing basic shelter. It’s about providing skills to get people back their pride to get people back their self-esteem and to give people a path to economic stability where they can help get stable housing on their own," said Panapinto. 

The café’s interior space and design choices were inspired by the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles.

"The color pallet is actually inspired by the pride flag and the colors of the sunset.  We have beautiful drapes that diffuse the light as it moves through the space in the day," said Manager Erin Muscatelli.

There are no corners in the coffee house, which Muscatelli says represents the fluidity of the community.

"I get a salted caramel latte with oat milk and Willow is my favorite barista," said customer Allison Kumar who was using the space to work remotely.  "It always feels comfortable and joyful whether you’re here for work to take a meeting or to work from home, like I am today it’s just a joyful environment to be a part of and you know you’re always going to have good coffee and good food while you’re here," she said. 

Click here to learn more about the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Liberation Coffee House