QSpot LGBT Community Center “a safe space for everyone” in Asbury Park

The QSpot LGBT Community Center finally has a home of its own in Asbury Park.

The nonprofit, founded in the city in 2005, has completed the purchase of 1601 Asbury Ave. last month.

“(We are) excited, so excited, to be able to have a safe space for everyone,” said QSpot executive director John Mikytuck.

QSpot moved last summer to Asbury Avenue after working on major renovations to the site since late 2019, the year the contract to purchase the building was signed.

The site, Mikytuck said, had been vacant since around 2007 and previously housed a car rental business, bank and gas station.

The organization was located at the Jersey Shore Arts Center in the Ocean Grove section of Neptune from 2012 to 2020. QSpot, which was informed in 2016 by the cultural center that his lease would not be renewed for 2017was unable to make long term plans because his future remained uncertainsaid Mikytuck.

The QSpot Cafe is located inside the QSpot LGBT Community Center in Asbury Park.

“We fought against this deportation for a few years, and in those two years we didn’t know how long we had. We didn’t know if the following month we had to leave,” he said. “And so we couldn’t start saying to people, ‘OK, let’s plan this event that takes six months to plan,’ because at that date we didn’t know whether we would be there or not.”

QSpot is home to resources such as support groups, programs for LGBT seniors and a book club, and expanded last year to add an LGBT cancer support group which Mikytuck says is the only one of its kind in the state.

For the past two years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups have come together through a combination of online and in-person meetings. Now that QSpot owns its building, these programs and other community resources will have a stable and cohesive home.

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“That’s what we really are, a place where people can come in person, connect, socialize, be supported, engage, have fun, all of those things,” Mikytuck said. “And certainly COVID was a challenge to that, even as we continued to deliver programs. Of course, for everyone’s safety, we also switched a lot of things to Zoom – so now we can hopefully start opening doors, bringing people back.

The Asbury Avenue location also includes the QSpot Cafe, which is currently open on Saturdays and Sundays, in hopes of extending those hours in warmer weather, Mikytuck said.

Lakeland Bank, with a local branch in Asbury Park, helped finance the sale, with additional financial support from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP, with a New Jersey office in Roseland, represented QSpot.

“We just got very lucky, and I think that translates to a very bright future for QSPot…as an organization that helps the LGBT community and the allied community,” Mikytuck said. “We certainly help everyone who needs, wants, likes to come (here). We are certainly open to everyone.

Alex Biese has been writing about local and national art, entertainment, culture and current affairs for over 15 years.

Jill E. Washington