Less than a month after George’s Play closed suddenly, new tenants have taken up in the space and promise to open a bar in time for Pride weekend, with a grand opening later in the summer.
The new bar, Church on Church St, aims to provide something different by being a community-focused watering hole. Co-owner Andrew Archer says the space will host regular drag king and queen performances, hip-hop nights, and an industry night for the servers and workers in the Church St scene.
Archer says the owners settled on the name “Church” while considering that the old English meaning of the word meant “circle” or “community.”
“We wanted to be a place where people could come together and be a community,” he says. “We’re going to be sensitive to it being a religious word. We’re not looking to make fun of religion at all.”
Still, the bar’s theme and décor will reflect a subtle religious aesthetic, with candle lighting and the use of dark wood and marble materials.
“We discovered these great wood beams when we soundproofed the place,” Archer says.
Soundproofing the bar was a necessary element of renovations, as George Pratt, the owner of Play, said that the landlords were upset that noise from the bar would reach their apartment above the space.
Archer describes an ambitious renovation of the space, which won’t be complete until “late July or early August,” when the bar will officially open. The bar will open for five days during Pride Week on a temporary liquor licence if the licence is approved.
“It’ll be high-end,” he says. “I wouldn’t say luxury, but the nicest bar on the strip.”
The bar will feature a dancefloor area in the back and quieter booth seating in the front, he says.
Archer, 25, has a long resumé in marketing successful businesses, including work with teambuy.ca, a go-karting business, and a fashion label with Project Runway contestant Brandon Dwyer. He says the bar will stand out from others on the strip by offering a beautifully designed space, lots of community involvement, and a spotlight on developing and promoting up-and-coming drag performers and DJs.
“Our Friday night is going to be our drag night, to emphasize the talent around the city -- both established and upcoming talent,” he says. “A lot of [the queens] are treated like second-class entertainers. That’s not what I want to have. I want them to have a proper setup, with a stage, lighting and curtains to complement their talent.”
“I’ve lived in the Village for about six years now,” he says. “Where the real desire comes from is living in the Village and probably going out more than I should. I love the community feel.”
In other community news, rumours continue to circulate that the Village Rainbow may reopen by Pride Week as well. It appears that the family who previously ran the restaurant will be reopening a restaurant in the space under a new name. However, while no one could be reached before press time, construction crews were recently seen inside the building.
Archer says he looked into renting that space but was told there were issues with its liquor licence. A long-standing rumour that Starbucks would be moving into the space was vehemently denied by Starbucks’ manager.
Up the street, the Church St Medical Centre, which has long been under construction, will operate under the somewhat confusing moniker “York Medical Health Centre,” despite it not being located in the former borough of York or in York Region.