At age 26, Joe Cino took $400 out of his savings to buy a coffeehouse on Cornelia Street. And from 1958 to 1968, he ran Caffe Cino which was one of the first safe spaces for gay artists to perform their plays, songs, and poetry despite it being illegal to depict homosexuality on stage at the time. Starting off as an artsy coffeehouse, Joe Cino slowly started to allow small avant grade theatrical performances which eventually lead to Caffe Cino being established as “the birthplace of Off-Off Broadway Theatre.” With admission being free, Caffe Cino became a hot-spot for theater-goers that wanted to experience something besides the typical, big Broadway productions. For the first time, not only playwrights, but directors, lighting and set designers, and actors were able to come together to produce gay theater at Caffe Cino.
Caffe Cino received landmark recognition along with 6 LGBT historic landmarks in 2019. Find out more here.