The line-up of projects Bryan Couzens juggles would be enough to overwhelm a lesser man

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The owner of Chez Est in Hartford, Couzens has three major projects in the works at the Chez, is starting a separate business and is working with a family member on another one. He stays involved in many organizations for which the Chez does monthly fundraisers, like the Imperial Court of Connecticut and Our Companions Animal Sanctuary. Somehow he manages to keep all those balls in the air, while serving as president of Connecticut Pride.  “My plate is very full,” Couzens acknowledges. “I learned a long time ago not to put all your eggs in one basket-but don’t let them sit around too long, either.”  “I cannot just sit around and do nothing, I would go crazy-er, crazier!” Couzens jokes. “I try to get involved in many different things to keep busy.”  Couzens believes that staying active and involved is the best advice for anyone who wants to make a difference.  “It does not matter what you do, just do something. Pick something you find interesting and ask what you can do to help. Everyone needs help,” Couzens says. “Go to fundraisers, even if you cannot help financially. There are always things you can do.  I am very lucky to have a handful of people that go so far above and beyond to help me when we do benefits and fundraisers. I would be lost without them.”  If Couzens has found a key to being a business owner who also contributes to the community, it’s being able to keep self-interest in perspective.  “Help the people in need, don’t always put yourself first, and remember, it’s not always about the money,” he says. “In this economy, where so many people are jobless, and barely making ends meet, it’s good to do things for others and not always for yourself.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s very difficult to keep any small business open today, but sometimes good deeds are rewarded in other ways.  I am fortunate to be in a safe and stable position.  I like to help others, and using Chez to do various fundraisers and benefits is a great way to meet new people and show full out support.”  Couzens credits Chez Est’s former owner with being a great role model and a great support to the LGBT community.  “Gary Bechard has been most influential to me in all my years at Chez,” Couzens says. “As a ‘straight owner,’ I cannot name anyone else who has done more for the LGBT community. If you really want a hero, it would be Gary. No one else would have gone through what he did over the years to keep Chez and all his other bars open, if he did not care.” As for Couzens’ own contribution to the LGBT community, he is most proud of the work he has done with Connecticut Pride since 2002.  “It’s been very difficult to build up Connecticut Pride for many reasons. Connecticut Pride is basically the big party held on one day to celebrate a year of very hard work.”  Despite the fact that so much work goes into an event that lasts only six or seven hours, Couzens thinks it is worth it.  “It is really meant for people to be themselves and not feel ashamed or embarrassed about who they are or what they believe in.”  These days, Couzens feels there is an acute need for places where LGBTQ people can be safe and proud.  “With the huge increase in teen suicides and all the media coverage on bullying, it’s more important than ever for people to take part in some of the groups out there like PFLAG and GLAD.”  Couzens thinks LGBTQ people may not achieve full equality in his lifetime. “But I am sure it will happen someday,” he says. Change, after all, is already taking place.  “The younger generations are more accepting,” he notes. “More and more states are passing laws and allowing the LGBT community to feel more accepted and more comfortable. More restaurants and bars are becoming popular as meeting places. People seem to be comfortable goingouzen says, “it’s too late to start accepting their children and understanding them the day after they bury them.”

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