Remembering a Radical Vegetarian Cafe and Anarcho Punk Store.

Luna Sol Cafe was a unique, wonderful, and inspiring place for the 7 years it existed for a spectrum of people. You would often see vegetarians and radical activists there, and it was run by workers as a cooperative, where decisions were made collectively without a manager. It was the backbone for both the L.A. activist community, and the d.i.y. punk community, which I will elaborate on shortly.  A lot of people didn’t know this, but one of the founders of the Luna Sol Cafe was Tito, who came from the old school Los Angeles punk rock scene.

Tito at Luna Sol Cafe

The Luna Sol Cafe was across the street from MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. It was really easy to access from Hollywood and downtown L.A. because the cafe was walking distance from the MacArthur Park exit from the Metro’s Redline train station. It was also walking distance from the “Arts in Action” space (opened by activists), which had many punk gigs. It was also walking distance from the Lafayette Community Center where the Alternative Gathering Collective  (AGC) held many anarcho punk benefit gigs. These nearby places drew in a lot of people who would come to the cafe before the gig.

Lafayette Community Center – walking distance from Luna Sol Cafe.
Benefit gig at Luna Sol Cafe in the late 90’s

To visualize what the Luna Sol Cafe looked like at its beginning, I’ll describe what you would see. When you first walked in you would enter into a dimly lit main room that had a few small windows.   Immediately upon entering, a very large bulletin board was on the left wall that had announcements and upcoming event flyers and then a small wooden stage next to it. Looking into the room you would see two couches at the end of the room and several tables and chairs alongside the walls and in the middle of the room. Then looking to your right upon entering you would see two doors that led into a brightly lit room that had several windows all around it where there were also several tables and chairs that people would use to eat and meet with each other. In this room there was a counter to order food and a kitchen attached to it.

As with most starts, the Luna Sol Cafe was really slow and quiet when it first opened. At the time, they only served spaghetti, tea, and coffee on their menu. Although, pretty soon after opening they developed a full restaurant menu and had a paid full team of staff of about 8 or more people. To get the momentum going, friends and I began throwing a lot of punk gigs there in the late 1990’s.  I strongly remember one “Peace Fest” that Frank from A.G.C. organized, where the place was packed with travelers who came from all over the states.  As things really picked up, the hip hop community started an open mic night. This got so big that they released a Luna Sol Cafe compilation CD named “Soulophonic” which was recorded live from Luna Sol Cafe that featured poets, rappers, DJ’s, and acoustic music. A message from Soulphonic compilation CD insert shares, “This is where it all started. This is where colonized America met its match. Where all races met to organize, where all gender and ages met to talk, sing, freestyle, and play. Talk to one another and try to figure out what the hell is going on.”

Jackie Joice, me, and Molly from Santa Ana Food not Bombs at Luna Sol Cafe.

With the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2000 in Los Angeles, demonstrations were going on all over Los Angeles against the war in Iraq, for immigration rights, anti-police brutality, animal rights, and much more.  After protesting activists would hangout at Luna Sol Cafe. It got so busy that your average wait time to get your lunch took no less than 30 minutes, so they had to put a sign in front that said “please be patient, we are not fast food.”

Luna Sol Cafe
Luna Sol Cafe had two glass display cases where local artists  displayed jewelry, CD’s, and other small art and crafts.  In the 2000’s I started to bring a variety of patches and pins, and give them to Tito for consignment. Tito encouraged me to bring punk ep’s, CD’s, etc.  I was working, and running a small punk distro on the side in the early 2000’s. Tito asked me one day, “why don’t you open up a store here? I can close the stage, and make it into a shop.” I thought that was a crazy idea, to quit my job and run a store.  I later agreed to do it. I paid monthly rent to Luna Sol Cafe, and I came up with the name “Activist Store.”
Activist Store at Luna Sol Cafe

As I networked with many people at the time, I got tons of stuff in the store on consignment, including radical books, shirts, over 100 different buttons, patches, records, CD’s, bumper stickers, etc. Word spread about the shop, and it became known as an “Anarchist Infoshop,” but it was actually really a store.  I wanted to call it the “Activist Store” and not “Anarchist Infoshop,” because I was making a profit. No matter how much I told people it’s a store, it carried a reputation as an Anarchist infoshop.  I started to get many magazines coming into the Anarchist Infoshop, like Earth First, Green Anarchy, and several animal rights, social justice, and political zines. I ended up making a zine and magazine library section in the store where people could hang out and read.  Billy from the store Soap Plant Wacko donated two giant magazine racks to put in the cafe.  Having the magazines and zines available to read in the cafe without purchase made it actually become more of an  infoshop.

Activist Store / Zine library to the right at Luna Sol Cafe.

 I was continually trying to figure out ways the cafe could be for folks who had no money.  I wanted people to enjoy the space even if they weren’t having food or tea. As the cafe had DSL internet, this led me to propose the idea that the Luna Sol Cafe could have computers available for people to

use for free. So I talked to Lee Siu Hin from “Arts in Action,” and he donated 3 computers, and one printer.  One computer had Photoshop and was connected to a printer to help activists make posters and art. The other two computers were available for recreational use. People came in, got on the guest and or waiting  list, and used the computers for free.

Activist Store (aka Info-shop) at Luna Sol Cafe.
Eventually all kinds of political groups were having meetings there, like the L.A. Anarchist Black Cross, and the Southern California Anarchist Federation. Even punk collectives like Alternative Gathering Collective (AGC) were having weekly meetings on Sunday afternoons, and organized a lot of small events like film showings, workshops, and had speakers, etc. 

 One of my favorite memories from the cafe was when all the members of Icons of Filth (when Stig their singer was in the band) came in, and we gave them a free meal. They donated a bunch of merch for different causes.  Another favorite memory from earlier on was when Conflict came in 2001, and had a late lunch with us and did the same thing. 

A.G.C. event flyer at Luna Sol Cafe.

There were many times when Tito talked about leaving Luna Sol Cafe to me as he considered leaving for different opportunities after many years of hard work there. Tito made sure that the staff would always get paid first, and then the core members also got paid after, no matter what.  Tito eventually left, and I decided not to do the store anymore. I had the store for about 6 months.  I made an announcement at a meeting that I was leaving.  We left the zine library and books there, and the computers.  I still visited the cafe, supported the place, and organized events there.

However, shortly after the lease was up, and if I remember correctly this had to do with a change in ownership for the building. The owner raised the lease price to an extreme.  Unfortunately, Luna Sol Cafe had no choice but to close a couple of months later.  There was talk about moving to a different location, however that did not happen, and Luna Sol Cafe closed for good. 

Luna Sol cafe crew.

The reason I wrote about the Luna Sol Cafe, is that it played a significant and essential role in the activist community, namely in the Los Angeles area. I met many wonderful people there, and learned a lot from the community that spent time there.  It was a place where we could go any day, and spend quality time together. It was a place that really had a sense of community, and it was a special place in a special time. By- Vegan Peace Punk

Luna Sol Cafe
Activist Store at Luna Sol Cafe