Manhattan’s Sona Indian Restaurant, a haven for the LGBTQ community


Sona was Goyal’s first foray into the restaurant business after a career in marketing, which he described as an industry with a strong LGBTQ community. That hasn’t been his experience in the food industry so far, where he says he hasn’t met many other gay restaurateurs. He’s not sure why that’s the case, but noted that it can be daunting dealing with some of the old-fashioned companies restaurateurs have to work with to secure funding and space.

“Fortunately, we’re in New York. There’s a general feeling that being open-minded in business dealings is the way of the city,” he said. “But I can imagine if you’re in other parts of the country it’s a little off-putting because people are questioning your concept or wondering, if you’re going to do it, what kind of crowd you’re going to encounter. let in.”

It was also daunting to open a new restaurant during the pandemic. Goyal paved the way on Sona in January 2020, but Covid brought the process to a screeching halt soon after, forcing him to reevaluate how to keep the project alive.

The team was eventually able to open the restaurant, but its debut was not what Goyal had originally hoped for.

“You’re super excited to open a restaurant, but when we opened we could only have 30% indoor occupancy. No one could sit at the bar,” he said. “It was not the restaurant we dreamed of opening in terms of experience.”

Goyal is happy to have jumped into the hospitality industry with an Indian restaurant, and while it’s not New York’s first, he pays homage to his father’s former restaurant in Texas.

“We honor it with a dish on our menu: our butter chicken is called India House Butter Chicken,” he said. “It’s been very personal, the experience of being a first-time restaurateur and being a gay restaurateur.”


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