Downtown: New tea house, social organization celebrate LGBTQ inclusively and more 

  • Nicholas King (left) and J.M. Hirsch of Pride Pops Up stand outside the Bank of New Hampshire Stage last month. Pride Pops Up has been holding events since January. Meanwhile, Teatotaler, a popular spot in Somersworth, is opening a Concord location on Warren Street. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The artist Anjimile performs at the Bank of New Hampshire stage last month. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Pride Pops Up stand at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage concert last month. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jordan Keach meets her friends J.M. Hirsch and Nichols King at the Bank of New Hampshire Anjimile concert last month. Hirsch and King had set up their Pride Pops Up stand at the concert for their LGBTQNH organization. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Emmett Soldati, owner of Teatotaler in Somersworth, plans to open a second location of his colorful tea house in Concord in 2020. Courtesy

  • —Courtesy

  • Teatotaler is an LGBTQ friendly tea house that will be open to all who enjoy a colorful and flamboyant vibe. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 8/26/2019 7:21:55 AM

Walls covered with rainbow paper. Teenagers performing in drag in front of a cheering, inter-generational crowd. Feminism club and LGBTQ pride group members bonding over bubble tea.

For eight years, Teatotaller, a cafe in Somersworth, described as an “oasis of queer, hipster, tea, coffee, and pastry goodness,” has operated as an inclusive hub in one of the state’s smallest cities.

Now, the cafe is coming to Concord.

“I just love that kind of vibrancy, silliness and playfulness,” Teatotaller owner Emmett Soldati, 31, said. “We are here, we are queer, we are loud and we are colorful. I’m excited to bring that community to Concord.”

Teatotaller’s new location will be at 24 Warren St. in Concord across from Granite State Candy and will open sometime next year, said Soldati said. The cafe will be renting space from developer Steve Duprey, who recently bought the building.

Teatotaller is one of a couple of explicitly LGBTQ-friendly spaces that have been popping up in the capital city in recent months.

Pride Pops Up, a new organization, has been holding events since January. With the motto “Love Free or Die,” Pride Pops Up hosts community gatherings for LGBTQ people and allies downtown at local hubs like True Brew, Whiskey & Wine and the new Bank of New Hampshire Stage. The goal, founder J.M. Hirsch said, is to give people a chance to build social networks with support systems.

“We are building a bigger community out of this – I didn’t know that there were that many people in Concord in the LGBTQ community,” Hirsch said. “I think people are just enjoying it as way to realize they are not so isolated. We can walk down the street and not realize what a diverse population we have and that’s a great thing to participate in.”

Teatotaller

Teatotaller isn’t an exclusively LGBTQ space, Soldati said, but it is openly welcoming and inclusive to all kinds of customers.

“LGBTQ people and people of all different stripes, colors and backgrounds are welcome and celebrated,” Soldati said.

Soldati said a lot of the inspiration for Teatotaller comes from his personality and the kind of inclusively that he “wants to see in the world.”

That means a lot of color, flamboyancy and fun. For Teatotaller’s grand opening in Somersworth, Soldati hosted a celebration with Irish dancers and a performance by a seven-foot-tall drag queen.

“Being LGBTQ and queer-friendly means more than just being LGBTQ,” he said. “It means making space for other people and taking other people’s perspectives. We do lots of specifically queer programming, but what makes me so happy is we aren’t a space that’s exclusive, and in fact, we’re providing these connections and opportunities for people to learn about all kinds of thinking and being.” 

Teatotaller started as a cafe, but has become much more than that, Soldati said. During the last legislative session, it was “ground zero” for an anti-discrimination bill that ended up being signed into law. 

The cafe hosts artists groups, non-profits, activists and young professionals events, as well as a lot of youth programming.

The most popular events for young adults are always the “Afterschool Special” events, an all-teen drag show. Teens travel from all over to glam up in wigs, make-up and formal attire to perform. 

“Kids are coming and parents and folks of all ages are coming from Boston and Portland and North Conway to see us. Clearly there’s a need, and clearly, there’s an opportunity much broader than 11,000 people in Somersworth,” said Soldati.

“I think we realized we’ve got something special here in Somersworth, but we aren’t fooling ourselves. It’s still a smaller city. It’s a quieter city and we can’t reach everyone," he added, about the move to Concord .

Teatotaller is known for its hand-blended teas, espresso drinks and breakfast sandwiches. The cafe has options for people of all different dietary needs – whether it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or vegetarian. 

Something central to the identity of the cafe is also the fact that it is a sober space.

“There is something about having a sober space that changes the tone and expectations of what kind of event happens here, who’s welcome here, what can I expect,” Soldati said. “The sober side of things has sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly, has driven these kind of magical moments where people meet each other or come together on issues where they make connections where they become activated in their community, even if they weren’t thinking that’s what they were doing. It will be like, ‘I’m just here for bubble tea, and now suddenly I’m in a painting group that meets every Sunday.’ ”

To help fund the opening of a second location in Concord, Teatotaller has opened a MainVest account. They have already raised more than $50,000 toward the new space. With MainVest, which allows people to invest in projects cropping up downtown in cities across the country, investors will receive a portion of Teatotaller’s gross revenue until they receive the amount they invested, plus 20 percent. 

Teatotaller will be hosting an event at Red River Theatres from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday for the public to learn more about Teatotaller and how to invest in its future in Concord. The portal to invest will close down later that night. 

Pride Pops Up

Hirsch, an editor of a food magazine, said he and his partner Nicholas King have been longing to help grow a social network for LGBTQ people in the capital city for a while. 

“We realized that New Hampshire doesn’t have much going on for LGBTQ people and allies, besides a few bars in Manchester,” he said. “We really wanted to help create a social space where people could come out and meet new people with no pressure.” 

In January, Pride Pops up hosted its first event at Whiskey & Wine in Concord. Hirsch said they got 30 people who traveled through 16 inches of snow in a blizzard to be there.

They have hosted events regularly since then – and local businesses have even started coming to them asking for Pride Pops Up to hold an event at their establishment. At an event at True Brew in June, 200 people showed up, Hirsch said.

In July they invited two queer artists from Boston – Oompa and Anjimile – to perform at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage. 

Hirsch said the reception for Pride Pops Up has been immensely positive. 

“I think the best part of it is when we see people who I have never met before come up to me at these events and say they’ve lived in concord for five or 10 years and they’ve never met anyone like them before,” Hirsch said. 

So far, participants have been very open to meeting new people. 

“People walk in and they are immediately greeted by a dozen or so people, whether they know them or not,” he said. 

Hirsch said people are bringing parents, kids and friends to the Pride Pops Up events. Of all the people who attend on any given night, 15 to 20 percent are straight allies. 

“At the events, everyone just walks up and starts chatting – it's very comfortable and welcoming,” he said. 

The next Pride Pops Up event will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at True Brew in Concord. 




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