By Reid Nakamura
Liberation Coffee House celebrated its second anniversary earlier this month with a special event inviting customers to experience the café’s community-focused offerings after years of pandemic restrictions.
Located at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the 1,600-square-foot café first opened its doors in August 2020 with plenty of excitement from the community but few opportunities to utilize the space as it was originally intended. Two years later, the plastic partitions separating employee and customer have come down and visitors no longer have to take their food to-go.
“It’s been a long two years with the pandemic,” said Nick Panepinto, the Center’s director of culinary training and operations. “So, we’re excited now that we can finally host community events and welcome everyone in the space.”
The café is staffed by students of the Center’s Culinary Arts program, a three-month program training the Center’s LGBTQ youth and seniors for employment in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Customers visiting for the anniversary were met with free food, celebratory decorations, and a latte art demonstration from the café’s baristas. The afternoon featured live music performed by the Center’s youth clients.
“The space is really designed to be functional for different types of things, not just the coffee shop, but we haven’t had that experience yet in here,” Panepinto said.
“I love the community that we’ve built throughout the pandemic,” said café manager Erin Muscatelli. “I’m glad that we were able to stay open with the backing of the Center, and thanks to the local community that keeps coming back.”
Samantha Stephans, one of Liberation’s regular customers, first started visiting the café during the pandemic and kept coming back because of the connections she formed with the staff and community.
“Honestly, it really is the people,” Stephans said. “But also the coffee. They really do make amazing coffee.”
“That’s really what we set out to do,” said Panepinto. “We have a lot of regular community members from local businesses and from the apartments [in the area]. They come every day and really have made it feel like their home.”
One resident of the Center’s nearby housing facilities wrote in to express gratitude for the café during a difficult time, Panepinto said. “He wrote us a note that said, ‘This cafe helped me get through the pandemic because it was the one place where I felt like a social connection.’ That’s what we’re most proud of.”
Liberation Coffee House is open for business at 6725 Santa Monica Blvd. Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.–3 p.m.