Slack’s closes just before Toronto Pride

'Only true women's bar' on Church Street first opened as Slack Alice in 1997

It’s a sad month for Toronto lesbians. After eight years of operating as the “only true women’s bar” on the Church Street strip, Slack’s Restaurant and Bar has closed its doors.

Co-owner Karen Halliday confirmed the closure on her Facebook page earlier in June, while friends of the owners and regular performers at Slack’s verified the news this week.

The venue first opened in 1997 under the name Slack Alice. Operated by Heather Mackenzie (who now runs The Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament Street) and a male friend, Stephen Brailsford, the bar was never intended to be a lesbian hangout. But as more women flocked to the space, Slack Alice was quickly coined a “women’s place” for female Village-goers, many of whom recall dancing atop the bar during wild nights early on in Slack Alice’s inception.

In 2005, the venue was rebranded as Slack’s by Halliday and partner Michele Hammerton, and it became the Village’s trademark lesbian bar.

Many remember Slack’s for its cozy, laid-back atmosphere, free comedy shows and dirty bingo nights. It was also home to some of the Village’s best lesbian music nights, with female DJs spinning almost every weekend.

Mackenzie says news of the closure is “saddening,” but she thinks that times are changing and the need for an exclusive women’s bar is slowly declining. “It seems the trend now is that there are more parties all over the city rather than one set bar,” she says. “Different parties tend to cater to all different types of women.”

It’s an especially great loss during Pride season, says Pride Toronto executive director Kevin Beaulieu. “We benefit from a strong local community of queer businesses, and certainly, we hope that we can maintain that [despite Slack’s closure],” he says.

Halliday has not responded to Xtra’s requests for comment.

Erica Lenti

Erica Lenti is a deputy editor at Chatelaine and a former editor at Xtra.

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