GREENPOINT — A gay Latino business owner on Manhattan Avenue will open his restaurant up to neighbors this Saturday as a "safe space" for people to gather and talk about the recent presidential election.
Fernando Varela, co-owner of Colombian restaurant Cafecito Bogotá at 1015 Manhattan Ave. plans to host a Love Trumps Hate event and he welcomes neighbors to use the restaurant in the future as a place to host events or congregate going forward.
"Folks feel anxious or scared or they want to connect," he said. "We are just isolated."
Over the years presidential-elect Donald Trump has made several homophobic remarks like when he said the country was going to hell after openly gay football player Michael Sam kissed his then-boyfriend on draft day and when he compared gay marriage to a opting for a fancy gulf putter instead of a normal one, calling himself a traditionalist.
While the election has brought the conversation about homophobia and other forms of discrimination to the fore, Varela said, that as a proudly gay restaurant owner, personally experiencing homophobia is nothing new.
Varela explained that for the ten years he's owned Cafecito Bogotá, he's insisted on hanging a rainbow gay pride flag on the door of the restaurant, despite the hate it attracted.
"Our flag has been defaced before, has been ripped off, We've been called fa---ts, people have come into our store and threatened us. People have actually burst bottles in front of us on the street just out of pure anger that we have kicked them out of a place because they come with hate," he said. "We are not new to that."
"We have been resisting for 10 years," he said. "It's been a resistance. We can't hide."
For that reason, now more than ever, Varela said, he wants to stay visible and for his restaurant to be a welcoming spot for neighbors of all backgrounds, he said.
"Anyone is welcome to come. I hope that people who come are neighbors and friends who are willing to really show support for people who feel endangered," he said. "It's really to show our solidarity, to show our compassion."