Florida Coffee Shop Rebrands as MAGA Cafe to Attract ‘Positive Energy’

February 5, 2020 Off By Jelisa Castrodale

Maga's Restaurant is a well-regarded Mexican joint in Houston, Texas, with impeccable ratings on Facebook, Google, and TripAdvisor. On its Yelp page, dozens of reviewers gave the restaurant props for its breakfast menu, for its fresh ingredients, and for its cheerful decor. And then there was one person who just wanted to know whether its name was "a Trump thing."

Maga's has been around for more than two decades, so no, it's not related to Donald Trump or his seemingly inescapable 'Make America Great Again' thing. And, as another Yelper mentioned, it's also an abbreviated version of the name Margarita.

That's not the case at a newly redecorated coffee shop in Punta Gorda, Florida, where it looks like a MAGA cafe—the Trumpy kind of MAGA cafe—because it is a MAGA cafe. Tom Watson has owned the shop for two years, and he recently decided that he needed to change things up to attract "positive energy and positive people."

Because Watson may or may not have a sense of irony, his idea for attracting "positive energy" was to put an "I Support President Trump" sign in the window, to cover the counter with a gigantic TRUMP 2020 flag, and to turn the television to FOX News. According to The Sun Port Charlotte, the shop also added a "curio table" stacked with Bibles, more Trump stuff, and "an unopened envelope containing a letter from Melania Trump."

Watson announced that The BEAN on 41 would become a Trump-themed coffee shop on Facebook in mid-January, in a post that began with three American flag emoji. "Following the feel of popular ethnic social clubs, The BEAN on 41 has announced plans to transform from a traditional coffee shop to a 'MAGA Café' effective February 1st," it wrote.

"Instead of looking for a specific ethnic group, Owners Tom and Moni Watson believer [sic] there is a large concentration of pro-American citizens who would like to patronize a 'red, white, and blue' business [...] The owners also vocally support President Trump’s policies and welcome those who share that sentiment."

Watson wrote that the cafe's intent was to "attract the so-called 'deplorables" to a place where "supporters of the President’s policies can congregate amongst friends over coffee, pastries, or Woolworth’s-counter style lunch." The Woolworth reference is an interesting one: that retailer closed its last stores more than 20 years ago, which suggests that The BEAN isn't trying to attract the millennial crowd. More importantly, a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina was the site of one of the most significant sit-ins of the Civil Rights era, one that was instrumental in the desegregation of retailers and lunch counters in the American South. (Surely Watson can't be suggesting that Trump supporters face that kind of discrimination...can he?)

Despite betting his cafe's livelihood on the president's continued popularity in southwest Florida—and on his reelection—Watson told the Sun that he didn't make the changes for political reasons, and he only "leans" Republican. (Some of the posts on his Facebook page suggest that his "leanings" also encompass referring to former First Lady Michelle Obama as "Michael.")

Watson did say that he had seen an increase in customers since rebranding the shop as a Trump-friendly safe space, and that sales had jumped as well. "There's people walking in the door with red, white and blue, with smiles on their faces, who are thanking me for standing up for what we believe," he said. "But I believe a coffee shop is about the vibe, and I wanted to transform the vibe from negative to positive. All the news is very negative. We don't watch it anymore."

Huh. Maybe that explains it. VICE has reached out to The BEAN on 41 for comment.