This last month, I reached out to Chris Lowes, owner and operator at Mahtay Cafe (located at 241 St. Paul St., in St. Catharines) to discuss his cafe and the important roll it plays in the community.
For those unaware, the cafe opened in August of 2011, looking to be a traditional cafe, housing a variety of different demographics at different times. Their mantra “to treat everyone with respect and dignity”, shows their willingness to be available to to all varieties of groups in both Niagara and beyond.
From day one, the cafe has always been part of the community and very open and involved with numerous groups within the lgbtq+ community since the beginning. They host a weekly LBGTQ+ Women’s Group on Wednesday evenings, and on Thursdays they host a Gay Men’s Meetup as well.
As some of you may already know, Pride Niagara, which was formed in 2010, has changed locations for their monthly drag show and dance from Detour Music Hall.
“Pride Niagara started hosting it’s monthly LGBT+ parties with local LGBT+ supportive businesses in 2016. We have hosted these parties at various locations in Niagara, like the Niagara Artists Centre, Fluidroom, Warehouse and most recently Detour Music Hall. It’s always been a 19+ fully licensed night out with special guest hosts, drag performances and featured DJs,” explained Enzo De Divitiis, Chairperson for Pride Niagara.
Saturday, September 22nd was the first of many at Cafe Mahtay. Chris Lowes commented, “Saturday night was a big success, fantastic and no issues! Sales were good, lots of food and drinks. People were generally having a great time.”
Following the drag night, the cafe played host to Pride Niagara’s Drag Brunch on the following Sunday morning. Chris commented,”The brunch was a lot of fun and a great crowd.”
This past June, Mahtay won the LGBT+ Positive Business Award recently at this year’s sixth annual Pride Niagara Unity Awards and also won the award in 2016. It was an obvious choice for Pride Niagara to reach out to Mahtay to host their events, given their stature in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Whenever we work with any business or location we make sure that they are LGBT+ positive. Pride Niagara feels strongly about acknowledgment and accountability,” said De Divitiis.
“For example, when we host our Monthly Pride Niagara Dance Night, we have approval over the staffing that night to ensure everyone working is LGBT+ positive. [We make sure] that they are supportive and acknowledge our community, not just benefitting from our community.”
At this point we know for sure that there will be future drag show dances, but at the time of press, there was no confirmation on the date. The next Drag Brunch will be held on Oct. 20, with two seating options, 11am and 2pm.
I could tell with my interview with Chris that he is a passionate and caring business owner. The community is lucky to have an establishment like Cafe Mahtay to call a safe place.
“Pride Niagara is a celebration of Niagara’s sexual and gender diverse community and its supporters. Pride is in all of us and for all of us to celebrate. We strongly believe in showcasing the important successes of individuals and groups that have made an impact for our LGBT+ community here in the Niagara Region while celebrating our #LGBTplus heritage & building traditions together.” – Enzo De Divitiis