Community Cafe, Drag Queen Story Hour Find Temporary Home

Mandy Keyes at the original Community Cafe in the Grand Central District. Photo courtesy Community Cafe.

(WM) Former Grand Central District restaurant Community Cafe, the home of Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) Tampa Bay, has found sanctuary at the LGBTQ-affirming Allendale United Methodist Church.

Owner Mandy Keyes opened Community Cafe in 2013 to become “your home away from home,” offering a full menu specializing in vegan and vegetarian options. It served as a safe space in St. Petersburg’s traditional “gayborhood” until late last year.

Its unexpected closure was announced in early November. “We were informed by our landlord that they will not be renewing our lease ending November 30th,” Keyes shared Nov. 6. “This completely blindsided us, as we’ve been in discussions with them for over a year about expanding.”

She subsequently announced that an agreement had been reached to remain in the space through December. Community Cafe held a final DQSH at the location Dec. 7, where it had done so since Sept. 2018, before welcoming supporters for a closing weekend Dec. 28-29.

Keyes has now announced that after nearly two months, Community Cafe will return with a limited menu for weekend pop-ups at Allendale beginning Feb. 21. Its first full weekend will also culminate with the return of DQSH Tampa Bay Feb. 23, featuring Tampa Bay entertainer Juno Vibranz.

“Hi Community! We miss you so much!” Keyes shared Feb. 10. “Life is so different without seeing your lovely faces building community together. We are not giving up finding our permanent home … but there have been a lot of roadblocks … some are due to Drag Queen Story Hour. We’re still searching for our perfect space.

“In the meantime, Allendale UMC has welcomed us (and DQSH) with open arms,” she continued. “You’ll know them as the church that has all the super cool progressive signs on 38th Ave N. They’re all about social justice issues, making people feel welcome and building a community where everyone is valued. It’s everything we believe in!”

Keyes says that 27% of sales will go to Allendale to support their work in the community. The pop-up will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., be available on UberEats, and feature approximately half of the cafe’s fan favorite items.

“We’re working on finding our permanent location but we’re welcome as long as needed,” Keyes says, noting that the church has also embraced DQSH Tampa Bay. “It’s a wonderful partnership.”

“Drag Queen Story Hour is not controversial,” Allendale UMC Rev. Andy Oliver adds. “The true controversy is how members of this community are marginalized and oppressed by individuals and systems. Community Cafe is a perfect partner in Allendale’s desire to create space for people to gather no matter race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or belief.”

For more information about Community Cafe, DQSH Tampa Bay and Allendale UMC, visit CommunityCafeStPete.comDrag Queen Story Hour Tampa Bay and AllendaleUMC.org.