When Peter Conway and his partner, Phillip Martin, relocated to Toronto from Miami in 2012, they felt like something was missing in the city.
“We noticed that the Church Street business community was lacking a unique and exciting play space for gay/bi/curious men other than the numerous bathhouses it has,” Conway says. “One that was located in a safe section of Toronto and within the gay village — much like what Fort Lauderdale, NYC, Chicago and Miami have.”
The couple found what they were looking for in the 90-year-old townhouse at 437A Church St. With 1,400 square feet split between two levels, the play space has exposed brick walls, 11-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and a staircase with an outdoor rooftop patio for the smoking crowd. And in contrast to some of the other indoor cruising spots in the city, The Attic was fashioned with a specific and very distinctive aesthetic experience in mind.
“Throughout the [space] we have scattered antique trunks, lamps and, of course, continual porno and pictures playing on screens, as well as pumped-in Euro techno music. On our second floor, we offer our triple-X cinema-screen seating area with antique baby cribs covered with leather seats . . . and two long, dark maze play areas that are curtained off.”
Which isn’t to say that Conway and Martin have ignored the necessary hardware.
“We offer nine glory-hole booths with multiple holes in each,” Conway says. “The glory holes are not covered, so the action is continuous throughout all the booths. The booths are also large enough to hold up to four guys, some with seating and some with thrusting handles for greater leverage.”
“Plus, we offer a leather sling room on the first floor that has an open-door policy — no pun intended — so if you like to show off, this is the place to hang out in.”
At a time when Grindr and other dating apps have put a dent in the Village’s foot traffic, some have argued that the need for physical hook-up spaces in the city has diminished. While Conway agrees that cruising has evolved, he feels that spaces like The Attic will always be in demand because they provide something very different — anonymity and immediacy. And since opening in late July, he says, business has been brisk.
“Today, guys have the instant gratification of hooking up or deleting and blocking you on your profile page; it makes people so disposable in a fraction of a second. If a guy has poor-quality pictures or doesn’t list his ‘likes’ properly, he isn’t going to find Mr Right Now.”
“The Attic provides another option. We are a private meeting space for men to have encounters and cruise each other. The excitement of a true tactile environment means that you can actually feel and see in person what the guy looks like and has to offer.”
“The connection is made or not.”