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Former Smiling Goat employees prepare to open LGBTQ community space in Halifax

Last Updated Jun 24, 2018 at 6:00 pm EST

Founding members of the Glitter Bean Cafe Natalie Cq, left to right, Lorelei Carey and Charlie Huntley are seen in this undated handout photo. Former baristas at a Halifax, N.S. café who are still owed thousands in unpaid wages are pushing back by opening a café of their own at the same location as their former workplace. The Glitter Bean Café is set to open next month on Spring Garden road in Halifax, and manager Lorelei Carey says it will serve as both a place to get hot beverages and a safe space for the city's queer community. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Charlie Huntley *MANDATORY CREDIT*

HALIFAX – Former baristas at a Halifax cafe who are still owed thousands in unpaid wages are pushing back by opening a coffee shop of their own at the same location as their former workplace.

The Glitter Bean Cafe is set to open next month in downtown Halifax, and manager Lorelei Carey said it will serve as both a place to get hot beverages and a safe space for the city’s LGBTQ community.

“People are really looking forward to the space we’re going to be offering,” she said.

Carey said about 90 per cent of the coffee shop’s employees belong to the community, with about half of those identifying as transgender.

The nine founding members of the Glitter Bean Cafe decided to pursue the venture after the Smiling Goat Organic Espresso Bar — their former workplace — was shut down in April amidst controversies surrounding the owner over unpaid staff wages and suppliers.

Having all worked together in the past, Carey said the sense of community among the LGBTQ staff has strengthened them as a team.

“We, for a long time, have felt that we have a really unique and special spot where we all felt safe coming in and working together,” she said. “We felt really held and supported by each other, so that felt like the natural way to take our new business.”

The business will be ran as a unionized co-operative, a model which Carey describes as “quite rare.”

They hope to open their doors in mid-July.

Charlie Huntley, a barista and member of the Glitter Bean’s board of directors, said Halifax is lacking in community spaces for its gay, transgender, bisexual, non-binary and two-spirited residents.

In an interview Sunday, Huntley said they could only think of one “explicitly queer space” in Halifax: a bar in the north end of the city, which would be inaccessible to underage members of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s super important for a queer community to have a space to come together to socialize, to organize, to support each other, to see ourselves reflected in one another,” they said.

“If we don’t have those things, the community becomes pretty fragmented.”

Huntley, who identifies as non-binary, said it can also be difficult to find a workplace where their bosses and co-workers respect their pronouns.

According to them, the Smiling Goat has been slashed from six locations down to two since owner Kit Singh became embroiled in several lawsuits over alleged unpaid wages and supplier bills.

Huntley said Singh still owes the Glitter Bean staff about $10,000 total in unpaid wages.

Singh could not immediately be reached for comment.