Club Sapien, the Calgary gay nightclub known for its community outreach work, has announced that it will be closing its doors for good.
A statement posted Feb 5 on the Club Sapien Facebook page reads that the bar has been conditionally sold and will be shutting down “in the coming weeks.”
“Of course I’m disappointed,” says Club Sapien operator Mike Gray, who declined to comment further on the closure, saying he wanted to speak to another gay publication first because “we have a lot of history with them.”
The restaurant and dance club, located in a strip mall just blocks from Calgary’s downtown core, seems an unlikely place for a gay hotspot. But Gray told Xtra in 2010, when it opened, that it would be a welcoming space for Calgary’s gay community and give people a choice of venues. At the time RJ Fafard, owner of another prominent dance club, Twisted Element, dismissed the venture, saying Club Sapien is “a restaurant with a dancefloor.”
"It's not a gay bar," Fafard said. "It has a straight owner, and there's not even any Pride flags on it. There's nothing gay about it."
But many in Calgary’s gay and lesbian community embraced Club Sapien. After the closure announcement, representatives from at least 10 local queer organizations, including Pride Calgary and the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, posted condolences on the club’s Facebook page, noting that Club Sapien's management often went out of its way to support community events, charities and youth groups.
“Sapien was a great place to integrate into the LGBT community, and had I gone to [Twisted Element] first, I would have probably been disappointed and never gone back to a gay bar,” says Calgary student Matthew Brosseau.
The closure marks another loss for Calgary’s gay and lesbian community, which has seen more than a dozen gay establishments come and go over the past decade.
“The issue for all gay bars is that people seem to go out less and have more of an online presence in order to meet,” says Marc LaFlamme, aka SirMarc, 2012 Western Canada LeatherSir. “There was a time where the gay bar was where you had to go to meet,” he points out. “Those days are gone.”