The Embassy bar that was the heart of Hamilton’s gay world for many years is no longer.
It was converted a few weeks ago into a heterosexual saloon called Georgio’s. But going straight wasn’t the answer: the ex-gay bar is now closed until further notice.
And some former patrons are bitter.
“One Friday night just a few weeks ago I went out to go dancing at the Embassy, with no idea that it had been transformed into a straight bar and when I got there the bouncer wouldn’t even let me in,” says 29-year-old Hamiltonian Brad McPherson. “I was supposedly ‘recognized’ as of one the gay people who used to hang out at the Embassy. Supposedly they were a private club and can pick and choose who gets in, but really it’s just bigotry. No wonder it closed [after going straight] – who would want to go there?”
Since the Embassy’s conversion, queer Steeltown night-clubbers moved either down the King St alley to a new bar called Crush or around the corner to Hamilton’s historic queer den, The Windsor.
Like McPherson, 21-year-old Angela DeReubis has taken to hanging at The Windsor since the Embassy lowered its rainbow flag. But she didn’t have any problems getting into the new hetero hang-out during its short life.
“I had heard from a whole bunch of people that the Embassy had turned all nasty, that they were turning away drag queens and people they recognized as old regulars, or people the bouncers saw on security tapes from when the place wasn’t straight,” DeReubis says. “So I went to see for myself.”
She got in no problem.
Still, DeReubis says that the new Georgio’s “was absolutely no fun.”
This isn’t the first time Hamilton’s homos have been ticked off with the management of the Embassy-Georgio’s. Daryl Bender, a Hamilton transportation planner and volunteer with the Pride committee, says Hamilton Pride had problems for years getting any funding or support out of the Embassy.
“The queer community kept that place alive for years, but when it came time to show some support in return by sponsoring an event or making a donation to Pride, it was like pulling teeth,” Bender says.
Georgio’s owner and manager George (this reporter couldn’t get his last name) is unapologetic. “I’ve done so much for this [Hamilton gay] community, it’s unbelievable.”
George points to a Saturday-night bus service he ran for a few months between downtown Hamilton and the Church-Wellesley club strip, for Hamiltonians who wanted to club-hop on the weekends without having to crash overnight in the big city.
“The community wasn’t interested in that service the same way they weren’t interested in including me or respecting me. I was always Straight George to them, the guy who could do no good, you know?”
George confirms his bouncers were instructed not to admit drag queens into the bar during its incarnation as a straight club. “The drag queens never came to the bar when it was gay, and then all of a sudden when we changed over, they suddenly wanted in. They were just troublemakers, and I don’t want troublemakers in my place.”
For now, the old Embassy is closed until further notice.