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Church-Wellesley Village

The trees and ribbon are very simple but probably one of the nicest light displays in the city. <3
 
Straight Men Turned Away from Women's Bar


Straight men turned away

Church St clubs protecting women's events

Krishna Rau / Xtra / Thursday, January 03, 2008


In an attempt to stop harassment and ogling of women, bars on Church St are making it harder for unaccompanied straight men to attend events.

Jaymie Yu, who works security at Voglie Risto bar on their Saturday women's nights, says she has to remove men who are bothering women virtually every time.

"Men harassing women, there's something happening every night," she says. "I pretty much kick someone out every week and it's usually a guy or two or three. They're just bothering women.

"One guy even tried to hit on me as I was kicking him out. He put his hand on his arm and asked, 'What's your name?' He kept saying, 'I'm a gay.' No gay man would say, 'I'm a gay.'"

Yu says Voglie's policy on its women's night is that any straight man must be accompanied by two women.

"A man unaccompanied, we have every right to kick him out," she says. "We very, very politely hint that this is for women. We tell them at the door; they come in anyway.

"Gays are not a problem. But if they're no-necks, that's what I call straight men, we tell them they have to be with two women."

Nor is Voglie the only bar to have such a policy in place. Besharam, a monthly party at Fly nightclub organized by members of Toronto's South Asian queer community, instituted a similar policy starting with their November event. Besharam requires each solo straight man to be accompanied by one woman.

And Slack's on Church St refuses entry to men at the discretion of the staff.

"We have someone on the door who's very much aware of three or four straight guys who want to come in and ogle women," says Karen Halliday, the owner of the bar. "He'll ask questions to find out how much they know about the neighbourhood. You don't want to have to ask those questions but you want the gay men and women to feel safe."

Mohammed Khan, one of the organizers of Besharam, told Xtra before the new policy was enacted in November that straight men were taking over the event.

"We've been getting an influx of large groups of men unaccompanied by women coming in," he said at the time. "The people who have started to come in are engaging in homophobia as well as sexually harassing women. A number of women have complained that they cannot go onto the dancefloor. "A woman told me she was surrounded by men who fondled her breasts, grabbed her ass, were almost forcibly keeping her there," he said. "Gay men are being physically intimidated and getting homophobic comments."

After the new policy was enacted at Besharam's Nov 2 event Khan told Xtra that a lot of women and gay men who had stopped going returned.

Yu agrees that the atmosphere is much more comfortable for women and gay men without a lot of straight men.

"I would rather have 10 heavily drinking straight men out of the bar and have two lesbians not drinking in the bar," she says, "and gay men don't want to hit on straight men because they can't tap that."

The popularity of an event can be a double-edged sword when it comes to attendance. More straight men began attending Besharam as it became more popular within the larger South Asian community. Yu says Voglie's promotions spread the word about its event.

"They did a really good job promoting it," she says. "Word gets out to the straight community."

Deb Parent, who teaches a self-defence class at the 519 Community Centre and who has been involved in Take Back the Night marches, says the clubs are doing the right thing.

"Any time straight men start to frequent bars or clubs that are predominantly for lesbians it's an opportunity to ogle or harass women," she says. "I think it's an appropriate response. For many of us queers it's about reclaiming our space."

Halliday says Slack's is aimed at women.

"We carefully screen men before letting them in because it's a women's space."

And Yu says straight men have plenty of other places to go.

"The village, last time I checked, is for gay people," she says. "You have Richmond [the club district], the whole rest of the city for straights."

But all say it's important not to get carried away. Khan says that Besharam only had to turn away a few groups of men at their November event. And Halliday says it's only a few times a week that men get refused entry at Slack's.

"On a busy weekend I would say once or twice," she says. "It's not an epidemic or anything."
 
scene.jpg


Crying at the discotheque
There's still hope for TO's nightlife.
by Adam Schwabe


While New York’s gay nightlife is fierce and Miami’s is sultry, Toronto’s is courteous yet smug. Every year, a healthy surge of twinks is delivered into the grasp of this city’s club owners, and far too many of these owners are completely oblivious to décor and originality.

Toronto’s gay scene needs a serious kick in the ass. Some promoters and DJs say changes are coming soon. Partying is going to spread itself out more across the city; social options are going to diversify. But will we ever have a big, internationally known gay scene? Do we really want one?

So far, Queen West has been the main beneficiary of growth, with queer nightlife thriving at events like Big Primpin’, and spots like CiRCA, Beaver, the Drake and the Gladstone attracting more and more gay clientele. Sitting in a coffee shop near Queen and John, reigning club kid Matt Sims tells me there’s a new rave movement happening in the west.

“It’s a renaissance of electronic music and techno,†says Sims. The movement is built on style and art. He predicts that younger gay men are going to go out more, not just for sex, but because their interest in fashion, music and art will be reflected back at them by club life that can no longer be contained on just one street. Sims, who is planning to expand his promoter presence to other Canadian centres and to the US, sees a change of attitude in other cities too.

Gentrification in Toronto has meant densification and vertical growth (i.e. high-rise living) which is changing the retail, restaurant, bar and club scenes. When you’ve got less than 500 square feet to live in, the café next door or the bar down the street might become your living room. The demand for new places to party is increasing, as gay people integrate their social lives into many different neighbourhoods. It’s great if you don’t want to commute to your nightlife but will these developments help make Toronto a gay entertainment destination?

DJ Shane Percy isn’t so sure. “Toronto is in the growing pains stage and not quite at the level of many European cities where orientation isn’t an issue whatsoever.†Percy considers Toronto to be a more conservative city than most, one that values work more than play. “Fun is to be had at very set times, and is on the quieter side for a large city,†says Percy. Club promoter Gairy Brown, who hosts big parties like Eden as well as nights at smaller venues like Straight and Byzantium, warns “it doesn’t matter how gorgeous the spaces are or how many there are. If there aren’t people there, these places are going to close. Things are happening here, and we need to start feeling proud of our city and start supporting it socially and also politically. I think we live in what is quite possibly the #1 gay city in the world in terms of lifestyle, quality of life, diversity and interplay between the varied demographic of gay men in Toronto—which is rare in most cities.â€

Brown sees many niches left to fill in Toronto but not just neighbourhood-oriented experiences: successful nightlife destinations offer good design and a unique experience. For him, Toronto has what it takes to play a part on the international stage in 2008.

“Let’s face it, gay men travel to party,†says Brown. “A big part of attracting gay tourism is having a very healthy, progressive and glamorous gay scene. That is where Toronto is going.â€

It’s clear that Toronto is going through some growing pains, and with that, we’ll likely a number of seemingly successful venues come and go over the next year. With growth in the alternative scene, neighbourhood-centred venues and international attention, it’s hard to imagine that the audience for club life won’t grow and evolve.

Adam Schwabe is also a regular contributor to Blogto.com.
 
A bunch of Church Street news...

  • American Apparel will be closing and a new BMO branch will be going into that space
  • Priape is moving to the old Church Street Bar space, no word on what will go in Priape's current spot. Priape hope to have Montreal-style window displays at its new streetfront location.
  • Flatirons in the Village will be leaving their space on Maitland Street and moving back to Church Street. They will be taking space under Woody's.
  • ManCandy (the former 5ive site on St. Joseph) is supposed to open in March (but this is from the guy who brought us the now defunct Church Street Bar).
  • Fly is getting a dark room which continues the neighbourhood's tend (The Barn, Alibi and The Black Eagle now all have one).
 
Priape moving to the 501 space is great news... much better than earlier rumours of a Tim Hortons..
I doubt ManCandy will happen... the guy who did CSB has burnt a lot of bridges in the community..

...and can we have a moratorium on new banks opening downtown? There are far too many now.. and what's the point, when they are trying to get us to use online or ATM banking?

Dark room at Fly -- just what the sketched out circuit boys need...
 
...and can we have a moratorium on new banks opening downtown? There are far too many now.. and what's the point, when they are trying to get us to use online or ATM banking?

What's wrong with banks? They keep their properties sparkling clean and tend to increase neighbouring property values. In Manhattan it seems there is a bank branch on virtually every corner.
 
There's nothing wrong with banks, but when you have two banks at two of the most prominent corners in the Village, you're immediately removing potential after-5 activity from them. This isn't a 'typical' downtown block we're talking about here. It's supposed to be the cultural/retail/community hub of the LGBT community.
 
What's wrong with banks? They keep their properties sparkling clean and tend to increase neighbouring property values. In Manhattan it seems there is a bank branch on virtually every corner.

It's something Jane Jacobs commented on in Death and life - basically, the problem is the displacement of small/community scaled stores, that along with other factors that made the area attractive in the first place, by uses that can afford higher rental costs. e.g. banks.

AoD
 
I'd say Church St is in slightly more fragile shape than it was five years ago, but it can still easily handle another bank.

One interesting question though...will the "steps south" still be allowed at the Alexis with a deep-pocketed bank citing security concerns?

I'm not surprised that AA is closing this store. It always seemed empty and in perhaps a strange location for such a retailer. I have to wonder how well their College Street location is doing also. Moreover, can they really afford the Holt Renfrew Centre rent on Bloor Street? It's not really their clientele in that area.

I also really wish the MLG mess would get sorted out and soon. Even if Loblaws can't decide what to do, they should at least let the LCBO go into the Eastern streetfront as planned. Of course, the parking lot across the street needs to get developed too. The Village needs to be able to grow a bit basically. It could also use a bit of help up towards Bloor as well.
 
Of course BMO would want in that space. As it is now, TD makes a KILLING off of the ATM fees at C&W. It is the only bank ATM in the area, where all the gay boys and girls go to get their beer money before hitting the bars.

CSB being turned into Priape is better than it turning into a Tim Hortons, but there is a loss of bar space. That is too bad. The space will never be allowed to be a club again (lounge yes, club no).

I dont doubt ManCandy will happen, I just doubt if it will last past the end of the year.
 
All of the bars on the strip are only at 50% capacity on a busy night now and most retail outlets aren't making any money and are slowly being priced out of the area as rents increase. The only businesses that can still afford to make money on Church Street are increasingly banks... the entire area will continue to change (gentrify) in the years ahead.
 
It's something Jane Jacobs commented on in Death and life - basically, the problem is the displacement of small/community scaled stores, that along with other factors that made the area attractive in the first place, by uses that can afford higher rental costs. e.g. banks.

AoD

American Apparel is a small community scaled store? i think the only thing small about it is their customer base.
 

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