By Joseph Abernethy
This month we’re looking at the village throughout the 90’s. This decade saw queer bars continue to concentrate on Church Street further defining what we now know as the Church-Wellesley Village.
Kicking us off is a club named Joy. It opened in 1995 at 16 Phipps Street, if that address sounds familiar it’s because it was the site of Club David in the 70’s. When it opened it still had a tunnel linking it to the property that used to host The Manatee. After the space was painted entirely black it became the place to go late on a Saturday night for alternative and house music. The club was such a popular spot that it regularly passed the bars 472-person capacity.
Slack Alice, located at 562 Church St., opened in 1997 and filled an important gap in the village club scene by evolving into a women-focused haunt. Over the years Slack Alice gained a reputation of having a relaxed easy-going atmosphere featuring dirty bingo and regular comedy nights. In 2005 the bar changed ownership and was rebranded as slack’s and continued operating until June 2013. The closing of this venue has a contentious backstory, in large part because it was shut down shortly before Pride Week. Unfortunately, once Slack’s closed the village lost its only permanent women focused space. Now the space is home to the event rental space 56IX2. In theory you could rent the space for a night and relive your best memories from the glory days of Slack’s.
Opening in 1993, at 499 Church Street, Byzantium “steaked” out some prime Church Street real estate just south of Wellesley. Byzantium was more than just a Martini bar, during the day and into the early evening it cooked up all sorts of culinary delights. In 1997 the cocktail bar changed ownership but continued slinging drinks and serving food until the summer of 2016. The space wasn’t short of a queer friendly tenant for long because Canadas oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore, Glad Day Bookshop took over the space and morphed into a “Book Shop, Café and Bar” with a jam packed “event calendar” including The ArQuives’ highly anticipated and celebrated Queer Trivia Night.
Nineteen ninety-four was clearly a breakthrough year for the village because that’s when Buddies in Bad Times Theatre moved to its current location at 12 Alexander Street. Famous for being the largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world, and mounting innovative and socially ground-breaking plays and performances, Buddies also hosts popular Friday and Saturday night dance parties at Tallulah’s. Launching with “Sissy Saturdays” the theater company/club has since become a staple spot for people of all stripes to dance to the Top 40 and the campiest pop of decades gone by.
Join us next month when we look at how the village changed in the new millennium. As always, we welcome photos, videos, ephemera and other media that would broaden the scope of our stories and history of the 70s, 80s and 90s.