ORLANDO | A new LGBTQ-owned business in College Park has been welcomed to the neighborhood by an act of anti-gay vandalism.
Cafe Linger, a coffee shop/restaurant/dessert bar located at the former home of NYPD Pizza at 2912 Edgewater Dr., opened on May 19.
The new business wanted to show its support for the LGBTQ community and to celebrate this time of the year with a rainbow flag posted outside the cafe.
“We put [the flag] up the first day of the month for Pride month,” says Michael Brito, co-owner and managing partner of Cafe Linger.
Brito, who is openly gay, received a notification June 18 through the neighborhood social network app Nextdoor that a bicyclist was tampering with private property in the area.
“So I just went [on Nextdoor] to see what was going on,” Brito says. “I noticed that the incident was at Café Linger.”
The post was from a neighbor to Cafe Linger by the name of Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s post on the app described the situation — which is corroborated by a Cafe Linger security camera that caught the incident — of a man in his mid-50s coming by on a bicycle, grabbing the rainbow flag by the pole, ripping it up and throwing it on the ground. The man then walks away with his bike.
Mackenzie contacted the police after seeing the incident and Cafe Linger has filed a report.
“The police came by and took a statement, they took the video and they said that it looks like misdemeanor vandalism,” Brito says.
While Brito does not recognize the person who ripped up the rainbow flag, he did say that someone on the Nextdoor app says he has seen the individual riding his bike around the neighborhood before.
This isn’t the first incident in Central Florida of a rainbow flag being vandalized this Pride month. Elizabeth McCarthy, the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus legislative director, posted to Facebook June 15 that Section 35 of the Sea-To-Sea Rainbow Flag that hung from the Osceola County Administration building for Pride Month was ripped down in the middle of the night.
“Police report was filed and a full investigation is on .Hate crimes will not win on this one ,#LOVEISLOVE she will be fixed and hung next year,” McCarthy wrote along with pictures of the damaged flag.
Jill Vianello has owned Let Us Frame It, a custom framing shop in College Park, with her husband since 1978. Vianello was upset by what happened to Cafe Linger but wasn’t that surprised by it.
“I have beautiful clients and beautiful friends that are all over the spectrum,” Vianello says. “And it breaks my heart because there’s an old mentality here that we want to break through. It’s still very conservative, and we need to break through that.”
Vianello says College Park is like having the town of Mayberry in the middle of Orlando.
“There’s a lot of love in College Park,” Vianello says, “some of these people just need to quit judging others.”
As for Cafe Linger, Brito isn’t letting one act of ignorance deter him.
“I thanked everyone for their support and let them know that the flag is going to go back up and that everything is fine. We’re not going to let it affect us,” he says.