BRYAN, TEXAS — It's more than just glitz and glam. Management at Papa Perez says Cora's Drag Brunch offers a safe space and helps boost the local economy.
"If it weren't for these drag brunches, I don't know if this restaurant would be open today," Matt Vega, a Manager at Papa Perez said.
"It's a place for us to celebrate who we are, have a good time and in a no-judgment zone," Cora Cadette, Queen of Draggieland said.
During the shutdowns, this restaurant, similar to many, had to be innovative to stay afloat and that's when 'Cora's Drag Brunch' was born.
"We started it in the middle of the pandemic when everything was shut down. The bars weren't open. Our bartenders weren't working. Our servers weren't really working because we were doing everything to-go. The drag entertainers weren't working because the clubs were shut down. Our DJ wasn't working because they couldn't have any indoor activities. So we started brainstorming what we could do," Vega said. "We were shut down. We missed out on football season, missed out on ring-day weekend. Everything from March to January. We missed out on all of that income. As a small mom-and-pop shop that's what we rely on. That's why we are in a college town. We have a university and 50,000 students coming in to support us so with that all gone, we had to get creative."
Sunday, the downtown Bryan restaurant hosted the 20th brunch of its kind, an event not only bringing in business but also helping vendors.
"Entertainers, DJ, bar staff and wait staff. That's what it's all about. It's all about community. We are here every two weeks, so every other Sunday, we have been doing it for almost a year now," Cadette added.
"It's just a good time. It's just coming out and doing something different and having something to do," Vega said. "Drag has become so much more acceptable now-a-days. It's fun entertainment for all ages. I do have kids that come out. Their parents are comfortable with them coming out. There is nothing dirty or anything going on with the performances, they are just coming out and entertaining to some top-40s, even oldies songs. It's for everyone."
Cadette has been doing drag for 13 years in the Bryan College Station community and says it's getting more mainstream with the help of recent showings.
"Here in the community itself, there have been drag shows in Northgate. We have drag brunches now around town. I do think drag has gained more popularity because there is nothing wrong with it. Just a fun way to express oneself and a different kind of art form," Cadette said.
First-time drag-bruncher and College Station resident, Katlyn Dent said the Bryan community needed something like this. "We love Papa Perez. This is a business we supported before the pandemic, so we were really happy to see them here today," Dent said.
It's a closed private event lip-syncing to all the classic songs and a unique outlet helping keep doors open.
"Find your show to go to and go in with no preconceived notions and just have fun and just enjoy it," Cadette said.
"The pandemic threw our way.. everything. From shutting down, to doing to-go only to switching to alcohol to-go. It's been one thing after another. We are trying to pivot and learn and roll with the punches just to stay afloat right now," Vega said.
On these days, Vega says, it is a private event and they close to the public. These brunches require reservations. No one shows up by chance and is surprised that this event is occurring.
"So everyone that is here chooses to be here and is willing to be here and is ready to be here. We are not forcing anyone to do anything. They come just to have a good time and we love it. The support has been great," Vega said.
The restaurant says, revenue-wise for them, Cora's Drag Brunch is comparable to any big special event in Bryan College Station.