Re-thinking Hamburger Mary’s: Outdoor coffee pop-up hopes to expand foot traffic, business

Every weekend, you will find Hamburger Mary’s patio space on Pine Avenue—a permanent parklet that was part of a massive expansion of outdoor dining in Downtown Long Beach in 2015—filled with patrons attempting to relive the Brunchettes drag show that used to overtake the massive entertainment space, indoors.

Hostess and ringleader Jewels greets folks from the giant television screens installed on the patio, urging them to keep their hands and feet inside their tables while always wearing a mask when not eating. And, for what it is—drag queens acting as servers, dolled up but also masked up and a timed table limit that forces groups to make their brunch experience not go past 90 minutes—more still needs to be done.

“First and foremost, we care about jobs,” Jewels said. “Our crazy little queer family here needs work, they need income. And while weekends and dinners are packed, it’s those in-between hours that we really need to capitalize on and be innovative.”

A passerby on Pine Avenue and Hamburger Mary’s popup coffee bar as seen on Sept. 18, 2020. Photo by Brian Addison.

Jewels’ first idea? A popup coffee shop, that has taken over the southern edge of the outdoor space.

With both of the nearest Starbucks closed—the one directly down from Mary’s on Pine Avenue along with the location located inside the Renaissance Hotel—on top of Long Beach Coffee & Tea having limited hours, Jewels saw an opportunity to not only expand hours in the morning but also provide something the community needs.

“We called The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a possible partnership and they were fully on board,” Jewels said. “We wanted to let people know we serve a quality bean and we’re not trying to sneak in some Folger’s. I figured that there has to be a way for us to use this situation to our benefit, mutually, for the whole community. And, you know, if we’re able to provide one of our family members with work, that’s nothing but a win for me.”

Hamburger Mary’s maneuvering is part of a local food and hospitality scene that has had to evolve on the fly: hotels host movie nights, restaurants have figured out how to master take-out and delivery options while also turning themselves into pop-up market spaces and making use of temporary parklets. Bars have coalesced to garner political clout and breweries are pushing to be viewed more as restaurants. It’s a wild frontier in many senses, but one, Jewels says, has never had a higher degree of collaboration.

The six-layer, passion fruit rainbow cake being served as an option at Hamburger Mary’s popup coffee shop. Photo by Brian Addison.

“I think what is probably the coolest and most beautiful part of all this is how we are more connected than ever,” Jewels said. “One of us can’t succeed if we don’t all succeed. We need an active business corridor where patrons are visiting multiple places, that they’re taking walks along Pine, that they’re returning the investment into their own neighborhood.

“The coffee popup is a full-on coffee shop set up by the sidewalk. You can get a 20-ounce iced coffee and, if you’re feeling particularly decadent, get in on some housemade pastries, including Jewels’ personal favorite: a six-layer, passion fruit rainbow cake that is “utterly divine. Genuinely, it’s fabulous.”

Coffee fit for a queen, indeed.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 330 Pine Ave.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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