LOS ANGELES — On First and Soto Street in Boyle Heights, there is a celebration going on at Noa Noa Place, the new LGBTQ Latinx bar and restaurant that opened in December.
Luis Octavio, one of the owners, said it is something he has been hoping to do for years.
"We’ve always seen bars in gay neighborhoods like West Hollywood, Boystown, Castro, etc. across the nation always host Latino nights, and we are more than a night," Octavio said. "We are not a Thursday or Sunday off night. We are Latino and we’re queer 24/7."
He said he had not planned to open at the height of the pandemic, but the right opportunity presented itself.
"I think we need some sort of happy moment right, among the pandemic and everything that is going on," Octavio said.
The bar is named after the hit song El Noa Noa by iconic Mexican singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel, who passed away in 2016.
The song immortalizes the bar in Juarez, Mexico where Gabriel got his start, and the festivities are in honor of his birthday.
"When you listen to the lyrics, the song basically says that this is an amazing place with the best ambiance where you can be and do as you please," Octavio said.
It might be hard to believe this place was a former sports bar until Octavio and his co-owners transformed it last month into a colorful, flashy, and quirky hangout with Instagram walls designed for photos, selfies, and lots of Latin flare. In fact, Instagram is where they have found a following.
"The number one comment is always, 'I can see myself having a drink here with friends once this is all over.’ We are making sure people see it, understand it, and know that there is now a space for them in the community," Octavio said.
The restaurant serves mainly pizza and its bestseller is a mole mushroom combination. Octavio also touts their special drinks.
"I like to say that our drinks are a mix of a martini from a really fancy place and they met an aguas frescas at the swap meet and we have aguas drinks," he laughed.
Currently, Noa Noa Place is only open for takeout, but Octavio has big plans for the bar’s future once everyone can gather again, including karaoke and drag shows with first-time Latina drag queens.
He hopes the sights, sounds, and tastes leave his customers feeling nostalgic while offering a safe space for the Latinx LGBTQ community to feel right at home.
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