By Alixandria Thomason
Lussi Brown Coffee Bar is a queer friendly safe space in the downtown area of Lexington, Kentucky. From the pride flags in the window to the diversity of everyone inside, you feel welcomed the second you walk in the door. The coffee shop and bar opened in June of 2017 following a lot of popups and a very successful Kickstarter Campaign. They serve delicious handcrafted coffees (their Honeycomb Latte is divine) until noon each day, and then the shop becomes a coffee bar – serving espresso themed cocktails and beer.
I sat down with one of the founders, Sarah Brown, to learn more about space, and about the diversity in Lexington. One of my first questions was where the idea for Lussi Brown originated. “I’ve worked in coffee for over ten years now and the first coffee shop I worked at was Berea Coffee and Tea” said Sarah. “It was the first place I really felt comfortable being out.”
Sarah fell in love with coffee, both the craft and the culture, from the very beginning. After working at a couple different coffee shops, Sarah met Olivia Lussi, their now business partner. They threw around ideas of one day opening their own shop and when the opportunity presented itself, they took the plunge. They began planning in 2015 and after navigating some red tape and all the ins and outs of starting one’s own business, the doors opened in June of 2017. And luckily, Lexington was ready for them.
“Lexington has got that small town, big city feel, which is a nice little meet in the middle. It’s rich in queer history, it’s all over downtown.” We talked about the Faulkner Morgan Archive, which houses over 15,000 items and over 250 hours of recorded interviews of the LGBTQIA+ history of Lexington spanning 200 years. There are even official government markers in front of Lexington Market and behind The Bar Complex to denote them as historical spaces. According to Sarah, from the art scene to the queer scene, Lexington has always been ahead of its time. “We are in the perfect spot here on Rainbow Road. Lexington is awesome.”
What started out as just an adventure in coffee quickly became something so much more. “Coffee was what we always focused on, but it became a bigger thing- a bigger idea than just a little coffee shop,” said Sarah. Lussi Brown Coffee Bar is a safe space for everyone. “It’s a space where you can be you. You can go on a date with whoever you want and read whatever book you want, and you are not going to be judged. We just want you here to relax and enjoy a coffee shop like it’s meant to be enjoyed by everyone.” The safe space for LGBTQIA+ folks was a welcome addition downtown. Pride Festival meets have taken place there, first dates that have become so much more, and even a lesbian proposal in the backroom.
So far there has been no push-back or hate from anyone. Sarah believes that the unapologetic way they run the business tends to keep naysayers at bay. “You get the idea as soon as you walk in… If you feel uncomfortable the door is right there and Starbucks is right around the corner. You’re not going to be uncaffeinated in downtown Lexington.”
For those of us that don’t live in such welcoming towns, finding these safe spaces can be a difficult process. I asked Sarah what advice she had for those folks. “To any business owner that wants to create that safe space, you just have to be unapologetic about it. And for queer people, anywhere you are can be your safe space. If you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, don’t give them your business. That will go pretty far. Find those little niche areas in any community, even if they are a tiny business and give them your support to show the town that’s what the people want. We don’t want to un-hetero anybody…we are just trying to exist in a safe way.” Sarah also makes sure to run the shop as a community supported small business by supporting other businesses, giving back to nonprofits, and bringing in the locals. “Make sure to support your local safe spaces- that’s all I need them to know.”
Lussi Brown is coming up on their fifth year. According to Sarah, though opening a second location has been discussed, “Lussi Brown downtown isn’t going anywhere. We like where we are.” Right now they are just looking forward to June, when downtown will become a sea of rainbow flags and excitement. When Pride happens in Lexington, Lussi Brown Coffee Bar is the place people traditionally come. In the meantime, until the end of April, they are having a cocktail tournament where two baristas create an original cocktail and they compete bracket style every Thursday.
Stop by Lussi Brown Coffee Bar for an amazing cup of coffee or an afternoon beer and enjoy the sense of belonging that fills the space. From the decor to baristas, it’s like one big hug for the soul. And as Sarah puts it, “there’s something about those iced oat milk lattes- the gays just can’t get enough of them.”