The geography of Toronto’s gay bar scene is going through some major shifts.
Boots, a bar that has been on the scene for 20 years, closed its doors on Jun 18.
Deiter Doneit, a faithful patron, refers to himself as “homeless” after the closing. “I went into the bathrooms 10 minutes before last song and when I saw that all the toilets had been smashed in protest of the closing I was in tears. I don’t think you can put into words how terrible I felt.”
Last year the Boots building at 592 Sherbourne changed from the Hotel Selby to Howard Johnson.
“When they [Howard Johnson] bought the Hotel Selby they promptly took down the Pride flag and that was the beginning of the end,” says Doneit. He is considering planning a protest.
“Boots was regularly filled to capacity on Saturday nights. What kind of business sense is it to close an extremely popular gay bar a week before Pride and two weeks before the long weekend? Regular customers of Boots should not put up with this.”
Franchise owner Anish Akbarali says the closing was necessary because of noise concerns in the building. “We tried very, very hard [to stay open] and it was a difficult decision to make. It got to the point that half the rooms were unusable and Boots was only open two days a week and not making as much profit as people thought it did.”
Industry nightclub will also close, on Aug 6, and its publicist says pressure from the city is partly responsible.
“The partners are all focussing on different projects,” says Charlene Ma. “The other reason is yes, the pressure from the city. Zoning and the whole investigation into the after-hours scene.”
Industry, at 901 King St W, is currently zoned as a restaurant.
Waiting in the wings to take up some of the slack is Hair Of The Dog, a gay pub at 425 Church St. It’s being started by the owners of Fab magazine.
The pub could not open its doors in time for Pride because they’re having problems with the liquor licence.
“The original restaurant had an existing liquor licence,” says Kennedy. “But instead of just transferring over that licence we applied for an entirely new one that included patio service.”
However neighbourhood parents objected to the patio. According to Kennedy “The complaints are somewhat stereotypical. Parents are concerned about school kids hearing foul language or seeing used condoms on their way to or from school.”
Kennedy says he’s not sure that the same concerns would be raised about a pub patio in a straight neighbourhood.
“A decision about the licence will be reached shortly, taking into account the opinions of all parties,” says Ab Campion of the Liquor And Gaming Commission. The Jun 26 hearing will continue Fri, Jul 14.
There have also been rumours of another change in the bar scene, that the Barn (at 83 Granby St) is closing. or being sold.
It’s not true. Says owner Janko Naglic: “I’m not sure who started this rumour. Maybe they are confusing us with Boots.”
The Barn has been around since 1975 and Naglic claims that it is the oldest existing gay bar in Toronto. “The only thing that has changed about the Barn,” says Naglic, “is a few new bar stools and a paint job.”
But there is a ghetto bar up for sale. In an ad booked in this issue of Xtra, a real estate agent is selling a “very profitable bar” with a rooftop patio in the “heart of the gay village.” Staff at the Black Eagle and Trax V say they’ve heard nothing. But there is a bar on the sales block.