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Nirvana in the 90s - Mapping the Village

Nirvana in the 90s – Mapping the Village

Nirvana in the 90s – Mapping the Village

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’s Restaurant & Bar Sign at 562 Church Street
Slack’s Restaurant & Bar Sign at 562 Church Street

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.

The Front Sign and Awning of Byzantium’s Martini and Supper Club
The Front Sign and Awning of Byzantium’s Martini and Supper Club

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.

 Glad Day Bookshop, Café and Bar Sign and Pink Awning
Glad Day Bookshop, Café and Bar Sign and Pink Awning
ArQuives Queer Trivia Night Poster
ArQuives Queer Trivia Night Poster

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.

A crowd dancing to the DJ at Tallulah’s on a Friday or Saturday night, from the Buddies in Bad Times website
A crowd dancing to the DJ at Tallulah’s on a Friday or Saturday night, from the Buddies in Bad Times website

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.

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Nirvana in the 90s – Mapping the Village

Nirvana in the 90s – Mapping the Village

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’s Restaurant & Bar Sign at 562 Church Street
Slack’s Restaurant & Bar Sign at 562 Church Street

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.

The Front Sign and Awning of Byzantium’s Martini and Supper Club
The Front Sign and Awning of Byzantium’s Martini and Supper Club

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.

 Glad Day Bookshop, Café and Bar Sign and Pink Awning
Glad Day Bookshop, Café and Bar Sign and Pink Awning
ArQuives Queer Trivia Night Poster
ArQuives Queer Trivia Night Poster

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.

A crowd dancing to the DJ at Tallulah’s on a Friday or Saturday night, from the Buddies in Bad Times website
A crowd dancing to the DJ at Tallulah’s on a Friday or Saturday night, from the Buddies in Bad Times website

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.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

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CONTACT US


Telephone: 416-777-2755
Email: queeries@arquives.ca

Street Address:
34 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1

Mailing Address:
The ArQuives
P.O. Box 699
663A Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

PUBLIC HOURS

6:30 pm - 9:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

1:00 pm - 5:00 pm Friday

Please note that The ArQuives offices will be closed for winter holidays from December 21, 2019 to January 6, 2020. We will resume normal hours on January 7, 2020. All reference requests made to queeries@arquives.ca after December 12, 2019 will be answered in January 2020.

NOTE TO RESEARCHERS:

Some of our materials are stored off site. Before visiting the archives, please send us an email at queeries@arquives.ca listing in detail the topics and sources that you wish to consult and we will let you know when they will be available. We aim to respond to email inquiries within 4 business days.


The ArQuives is located on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

The ArQuives strives to gather the stories of the unheard and silenced voices of the 2SLGBTQ+ first peoples of this land. We acknowledge that some stories have already been lost, and we aim to ensure that those that remain and those that are to come are preserved for the future.

The ArQuives has an access ramp to the front door and a lift from the first floor to the second floor. There are volunteers available to operate the lift. 

 There is an accessible washroom on the first floor. All washrooms are gender-neutral. 

 The ArQuives is a scent-free environment. 

 Please contact The ArQuives if you have any specific questions about accessibility that we can help with at queeries@arquives.ca.