Goodnight, Claire de Lune
Iconic North Park coffee shop and cultural hangout closes today
Today, one of the most iconic businesses in North Park is gone. Claire de Lune, the coffee shop, cultural hangout, and, for the last 19 years, a place for creative types and unaccepted types and North Park types of all type—has closed.
I graduated from college with a poetry minor, the least employable person to graduate from college in 100 years. But I found a home at Claire de Lune’s Tuesday night open mic poetry night. It was a rag-tag group of people who liked words. People who liked the way you could make them sound. Words take a different life when put through a microphone. Makes little words bigger, exposes lukewarm prose and amplifies moments of awesome. There was a divorcee working through her emotional shrapnel on the mic. There were angry poets. There were comic poets. There were professional writers, housewives, punks, musicians, people losing personal wars with personal things. Every week, we’d come together and nerd out on the English language. We didn’t have groupies or fans. It wasn’t a huge money maker for owner Claire Magner.
A lot of what Claire did wasn’t a money maker, but it was a community maker. It was a place where, unlike bars or restaurants, money or the lack thereof didn’t preclude you from feeling part of the local culture.
“For the last few months, I’ve been pouring $1,500 a month to keep the coffee shop going,” says Claire.
“One of my favorites was Ladies Nights. I used to have transgender women there and the BBW, big beautiful women. It was all types of women who would hang out and they could dress how they wanted and be who they wanted, and be in that moment. People who were transitioning, before it was mainstream like it is now. People felt comfortable.”
That’s it. Claire de Lune was comfortable. Like a big couch in the middle of North Park’s booming restaurant and bar scene. Claire owns the building, and will now become a landlord. The space is huge. She’s got several offers from potential restaurateurs who could build the 4,000-square foot space out.
I ask Claire how she’s seen North Park evolve.
“It’s a lot of alcohol,” she says. “To be honest with you, my ex died due to alcohol. Everyone was like, ‘You should get your alcohol license.’ But I didn’t open Claire de Lune to make money. I opened it because the community needed a great community space for the common folk. To be able to enjoy their money and spend it in their neighborhood.”
She will keep the name alive. The building will now be called the CDL Odd Fellows. And as Claire sifts through the proposals’ from potential new tenants, she’ll get back to being a mom. She’ll also continue to run her event space, Sunset Temple.
“I don’t want to be working that seven-day-a-week job for all my daughter’s life. I’m ready for a change. They grow up so fast.”
So did North Park.