The Sparta, Newark’s Introduction To Trans Culture

The latest reincarnation of Newark’s Sparta restaurant will sing its swan song at the coming out celebration of the currently-being-renovated Crystal Ballroom, 31 West Church, Friday, September 30. Analysis finds this appropriate enough, completing the cycle of life or wheel of karma (depending on your conviction). In the 9-26-16 Advocate (The Sparta looks for aid one more time) Barrett Lawlis reports: “The restaurant opened in 1900 as a combination restaurant and candy store. It has a storied history, often closing and reopening over the years. In 2012, Chris Ramsey opened the Sparta with the plan to use [it] for more than a restaurant: to use it as a transitional workplace.” Indeed, anyone from out of town looking for a good place to have breakfast (or lunch) would have had The Sparta as one of many choices in downtown Newark prior to the roundabout dig. The storefront signs, and those inside, gave all indications of an enterprising restaurant. Service was provided, and there was always coffee. Sometimes the out-of-towner might be struck by the slim pickings to be had to go with the coffee, or the ambiguous staff service when ordering or paying. The unfamiliar diner might sometimes be surprised by the establishment’s varied ambience – sometimes busy restaurant with an energetic and boisterous “meeting” taking place in the center, sometimes an almost classroom structure of instruction accompanying a customer’s request, other times an Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” tableau in the middle of the day. And then there was the variation in environment – from various community activisms posted to art and music venues. Should the unfamiliar customer venture to inquire as to any of these things, she would be summarily educated that The Sparta was not what it appeared to be. Rather, it was the establishment upon which something entitled Project Main Street found place in Newark. She would be informed that where she stopped to get a meal (and coffee, did we mention coffee?) was really a transitional workplace for Project Main Street; that much of the staff and management were volunteers, that The Sparta self-identified as a community center, and this was an enterprise where the customer did not always come first. Repast completed and back out on the streets again, she might be scratching her head, wondering why there was no signage of such to be seen from the street. Analysis finds that the days of The 3B School of Beauty, where the customer knew upfront that her hairdo was going to be part of a learning process, disappeared with the school. Ready or not, Newark has received an introduction to trans culture.

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