Bronx LGBTQ+ business owners seek to expand community and nightlife

Queer business owners in the Bronx say that while LGBTQ+-owned businesses have blossomed in recent years, there’s still work to be done in their own backyard.  
According to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, LGBTQ-run businesses contribute over $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.  
Businesses along Alexander Avenue in Mott Haven have become a key part of that growth, with many LGBTQ-owned businesses that include coffee shops,  bars and a new ice cream shop called Playa Gelato.  
Playa Gelato opened about a year ago and is part of what locals are referring to as the Bronx’s ‘gay-borhood. For Juan Vargas, Playa Gelato’s owner, this area is just home.  
“Even though it was in the late-80s and the Bronx had a different reputation, I never felt threatened, I never felt afraid, and my backyard was my paradise,” said Vargas.  
Married couple Tony Billups and Michael Brady are members of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and co-own Bar 47, which sits just around the corner from Playa Gelato. They say people shouldn’t have to leave the Bronx to be around their fellow queer folks in a comfortable environment.  
“When I was old enough to start going to gay bars, I found a community where I fit in myself. We don’t have a real sustainable nightlife that’s in the neighborhood,” said Billups.  
Support from allies is something that LGBTQ-owned businesses say is paramount to long-term success, which is why they’re saying allyship can’t just go as far as a business changing their logo for the month of June.  
Here’s a look at some of the LGBTQ-owned businesses in the Mott Haven neighborhood: 
Bar 47, 47 Bruckner Blvd, Bronx, NY 10454 Playa Gelato, 122 Alexander Ave, Bronx, NY 10454 Chocobar Cortés, 141 Alexander Ave, Bronx, NY 10454 El Taquitos, 2511 Third Ave, Bronx, NY 10451