Y’all Means All

NOTMC releases first-ever guide to local LGBTQ-owned businesses

Illustration by Tony Healey

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.


 

Travel is one of life’s ultimate adventures. Meeting new people and experiencing different cultures is inspirational and exhilarating. It can also be terrifying, especially if you walk through this world as part of a marginalized or targeted group. To help welcome LGBTQ+ visitors to New Orleans, the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) and the Gulf South LGBT Chamber partnered to create the first-ever guide to LGBTQ-owned businesses in New Orleans.

The guide was released in August just before Southern Decadence. It aims to serve as a resource for both tourists and locals who want to support LGBTQ-owned businesses. It was also designed to create access to the hospitality that makes New Orleans the world’s second “Most Welcoming City” for LGBTQ travelers for two years running, according to GayCities 2017 and 2018.

“We are thrilled that we have added yet another great resource for our LGBTQ visitors and locals to experience our city,” said Mark Romig, president and CEO of NOTMC. “A city as diverse as New Orleans needs to offer resources that provide an inclusive environment for every resident and visitor to our city…Every day we strive to be a welcoming and inviting city for everyone.”

The guide includes a list of “10 LGBTQ Must-Dos,” a map with points of interest, a detailed description of bars by personal interest (including local, laid-back and leather), as well as a business directory organized by category.

One such business is Arrow Cafe, an artistic coffee shop on the edge of the French Quarter located at 628 N. Rampart St. The shop’s walls are filled with fine art and hand-crafted treasures made by local artists, most of which are for sale. It hosts frequent art shows, and a curated menu of coffee, tea and pastries caters to both regular folks and sophisticated palates. Fans of exquisite drag queen Varla Jean Merman might recognize it as the location for some of the “One Time in New Orleans” webisodes created for GoNOLA.

Sarah Corsiatto, who bought the cafe in 2017 with co-owner Nick Christian, works to make Arrow Cafe a place where locals and tourists feel comfortable.

“For me, as a gay person operating a small business in New Orleans, it’s important to foster an environment that makes people like me feel safe and seen,” said Corsiatto. “I’m a big fan of radical spaces where artists and ‘others’ can create and do organizing. I feel like my business partner and I are holding space for people trying to create positive change in many facets of the city, from LGBT+ issues to wage issues and general left-leaning political thoughts.”

The business guide is still too new to measure its impact on Arrow Cafe, but the coffee shop is already active in the LGBTQ+ community. It serves as the starting point for NOLA Drag Tours, led by local drag queen Quinn Laroux, whose tours tell the stories of underrepresented people in the history of New Orleans with a focus on rebellious drag queens, the history of sex workers and even the first transgender person on record in the United States.

Corsiatto said Arrow Cafe experiences a direct sales increase from Laroux’s tour, as well as other tours in the French Quarter. Serving about 45% local customers and 55% tourists, the business experiences the common ebb and flow of New Orleans’ tourism cycles.

“In the summer, we’re mostly a locals’ hangout,” said Corsiatto. “Our Quarter locals keep us afloat in the summertime. Once the city starts cooling off and folks come down, we start seeing a huge increase in sales from people taking tours, taking the new street car on Rampart, and just wandering this part of the French Quarter.”

Arrow Cafe is one of more than 75 businesses included in the new LGBTQ-Owned Business Guide. Beyond food and entertainment, categories like health and beauty, home and design, marketing, and real estate, provide locals and tourists with a variety of services. Printed copies are available at many hotels and restaurants in the city, and it is also available online at GSLGBTChamber.org.