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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Upcoming Unicorn Bar in Midtown promises safe space for LGBTQ+ community – Daily Freeman

KINGSTON, — Unicorn Bar, an upcoming bar and performance venue centering on the LGBTQ+ community, is in the works for the space at 224 Foxhall Ave. that last housed the Beverly.

Owner Francesca Hoffman said on Monday that she hopes to open the Unicorn Bar by April. She is set to appear before the Planning Board at City Hall on Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. seeking a special use permit.

Hoffman said that as a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, she saw a lack of a dedicated queer bar that could provide a safe space for a community.

“We want this to be a very community space for LGBTQ folks first and foremost, and a cool spot for things people are not seeing or getting exposure to,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said she also didn’t want to limit the space to only one kind of musician such as indie-rock.

“Doing music things a little outside the box is a real priority to me,” Hoffman said. “We want to have a lot of brass bands, Balkan dancing, swing dancing and bring in some cabaret, dance shows and dance parties.”

“All of these things align with gaps in the nightlife market,” she said.

Hoffman herself is a singer-songwriter, who has played in brass bands, performing on bass drum, piccolo, guitar and ukulele, along with performing in a couple of choirs, including an Eastern European choir.

“I’ve met awesome people through these projects,” Hoffman said.

She said in her experience she’s found the brass and Balkan music scenes to be queer-adjacent.

As for creating a safe space, Hoffman said this requires making sure a given group of people feel heard and respected.

“The bar will be run by a queer person, and queer staffed,” she said. “The artwork and decor are very queer-forward.”

“We’ll be able to claim it as our own,” she said.

Hoffman said she believes being visible is huge.

“Queer visibility is still an issue,” she said. “There’s such a lack of gathering spaces.”

As for the name Unicorn Bar, Hoffman said she’s had that name for many years and she felt it fit this new space perfectly.

“Unicorns are mythical creatures that come up in the queer community quite a bit meaning different types of relationships,” Hoffman said. “When they come, we want them to feel like they are unique and special and we value them.”

As for the bar’s menu, it will not only feature a full line of cocktails, midrange wines and craft beer, but also an extensive selection of mocktails and non-alcoholic offerings, she said.

“Mocktails have grown in popularity,” she said. “We want everyone to feel there is something there for them.”

As for the food offerings, she said it will mostly be cold plates, featuring things like cheese, olives, hummus and pita.

“They are all things I’ve served when I have house parties that are simple snacky and accessible,” she said.

Hoffman said the menu will have options for people with dietary restrictions including gluten-free, nut-free and sugar-free options, adding that she’s worked through dietary restrictions in her own life.

“It’s good to feel someone is thinking about you in a hospitality setting,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said they are not doing a major renovation of the space that formerly housed the Beverly, with any upgrades underway mostly focused on soundproofing and acoustical work.

“We’re putting in a lighting rig and a real sound booth,” she said.

The theme will lean heavily into the space’s art-deco heritage, she noted. “Our designers are revamping and elevating space that’s fun, quirky, and has a queer vibe, but within this art-deco history.”

She said that extends to the bar’s neon-inspired logo, which features a unicorn head in rainbow colors and was designed by a woman she met at a Balkan music camp.

As for why she chose Kingston for the Unicorn Bar, Hoffman said the city is “central” to the Mid-Hudson Valley and she happens to live just up the street.

“I’m joking that I’m getting married to this bar,” she said. “I’m committed to being there and seeing this through, by being an active and engaged owner  and overseeing programming.”

Hoffman said she believes Kingston has the largest growing queer community as far as she can tell.

“That’s going to continue to happen, having a space like there is going to help make that happen,” Hoffman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people came from Brooklyn, Newburgh or Hudson.”

Hoffman said she hopes the space helps the LGBTQ+ community to thrive.

“We can get more stuff when we have space to convene, collaborate, think up ideas and grow together,” she said. “You can’t do that without a space to gather.”

She said she also hopes Unicorn Bar will help put Kingston on the map as a brass music destination for bands touring from cities like New York City and Boston.

“We’ll have a venue that allows for this to build over time,” she said. “It’s very danceable music, and very fun and I like it a lot.”

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