LUNAR Café - York's first LGBT+ coffee shop - has been described as "what the community needs" after it sold out of pride cakes on its opening day.

Nestled above The Portal Bookshop, the café acts as a safe space with its own specialist hair salon and an array of rainbow cakes and coffee from York's Abstract Coffee Roasters.

25-year-old Nelli Mooney, a non-binary interdisciplinary artist and art director, brought their vision to life through a crowdfunder supported by over 280 people.

A room that had been unused for almost 60 years has now been transformed into a hub for chatter, connections and "queer expression".

York Press: Insider Lunar Cafe. Photo by Adam GreenwoodInsider Lunar Cafe. Photo by Adam Greenwood


  • LGBTQIA+ refers to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual.
  • Non-binary means people who feel their gender cannot be defined within the societal confines of ‘male’ or ‘female’.
  • Non-binary means some people prefer to use they/them pronouns.

York Press: Photo of the pansexual themed cake by Adam Greenwood.Photo of the pansexual themed cake by Adam Greenwood.

Portal Bookshop owner Lali Hewitson, who uses they/them pronouns, said the cafe is set to make "the future brighter, safer and hopeful" for customers.

Lali told The Press: "It's fabulous, I've been trying to get a cafe up there for ages so when I saw their crowdfunder pop up that was perfect serendipity. I've just been really glad to be able to reach out and help them as I know how ridiculously difficult it is to find somewhere reasonably priced in York.

York Press: People queue up before opening day at Lunar Cafe. Photo: Adam GreenwoodPeople queue up before opening day at Lunar Cafe. Photo: Adam Greenwood

"It makes it easier for anyone coming to visit us as well, they don't have to trek somewhere else. Hopefully together it's a much better destination, it's a destination spot in town.

"I get an awful lot of young teenagers and young people who are just starting to figure things out, who aren’t sure how their parents will take it, who don’t have the confidence and the safety and security from the adults in their lives; So giving them somewhere that they can come with their friends, knowing that no one’s going to report it back, no one’s going to dob them in, rat them out - it makes a huge difference to them.

York Press: Customers share pride-themed shoes at Lunar Cafe's opening day. Photo by Adam Greenwood.Customers share pride-themed shoes at Lunar Cafe's opening day. Photo by Adam Greenwood.

"If I’d had this space when I was growing up then I would have figured things out a lot earlier because I grew up under Section 28 so everything was hidden and shameful. Having that difference to figure things out at their own pace and be safe and be comfortable, it’s making the future brighter and safer and hopeful."

Explaining the benefits of an LGBT+ cafe, Lali said: "Of course we welcome absolutely everyone but it's difficult sometimes when you're going out somewhere and you don’t know how people will react because the truth is that queer people are still getting attacked on the street and still getting dirty looks and nasty comments in public spaces.

"So having somewhere that is taking a firm stance on prioritising queer comfort is a game changer really because it means people don’t have to be on guard while they’re just trying to have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

York Press: Nelli serves up a slice of cake. Photo by Adam Greenwood.Nelli serves up a slice of cake. Photo by Adam Greenwood.

"Anyone who’s not comfortable with queer expression in public doesn’t have to turn up. We can do the opposite of what we do in other spaces, which is creep in, trying to see if we can hold hands with our partner and still get out there safely.

"Anyone who’s not happy with us it’s on them to make their own spaces elsewhere. They’ve got everywhere else, we’ve got this bit."

River was one of the first people to try out Lunar Café’s special pride cakes. “It’s good cake," they said.

“It’s pretty. We were planning on coming anyway as soon as we could but today just worked out that we were going to come to York today so we thought we’d come to the café.”

York Press:

Meanwhile Callum, who had travelled from Selby, and Katdan of York, said the cafe was "long overdue" for the community.

Callum said: “The cake is lovely! It’s brilliant, I think it’s what the LGBT community needs in York. It’s beautiful. It’s long overdue, massive thanks."

Katdan added: “I have to say Nelli’s done so well with such a small space.”

York Press: Glenn Miller, pictured, with Nelli, in the new Lunar Cafe.Glenn Miller, pictured, with Nelli, in the new Lunar Cafe.

Hairstylist Glenn Miller, who specialises in trans hair, will be running Glenn Miller Hair from a small room next to the café space.

Before talking about plans for the salon, Glenn said he was “living for the cake”.

Glenn continued: “I’ve been excited and nervous. I think it’s going to be everything to everybody. I’m wanting to create that space where I’m comfortable and they’re comfortable.

“Take everything else out of it, it’s hair. It doesn’t matter who are you are, how you identify, any of that. We’re just two people having a chat, I’m providing a service in a nice, warm area where we can just be ourselves so the fact we’re managing to do it in a space where there’s so many different little things going on but all with that same ethos, it’s just like ‘ah!’.

York Press: Photo of Glenn Miller by Adam Greenwood.Photo of Glenn Miller by Adam Greenwood.

“I can be jeans and a T-shirt one day, the next day I’m feeling a little dress moment. I know for me going to work in that environment, that’s my space where I’m a little bit more confident.

“The thing that keeps me going is that look of ‘Wow’ in the mirror. I did a client on Monday who was a hair loss client and just the shift in confidence from how they walk in to then leaving with what they’ve asked for, something that helps them feel like they like what they see in the mirror, that’s what I like to create – and that’s where I get my buzz from.”

York Press: Photo by Adam Greenwood.Photo by Adam Greenwood.