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Barn back with a boo

Cruising bar reopened Halloween evening

THE NEW BARN. There's been a gay bar at 418 Church St since 1975. Credit: Xtra files

Halloween evening saw the triumphant return of The Barn, Toronto’s legendary cruising bar. By midnight hundreds of homos had lined up on Church St halfway to Gerrard to get inside. The sea of patient and celebratory men — some in costume, many not — were a mix of leather guys, boy-next-door types and preppies, with ages ranging from 20s to 70s.

On the outside The Barn is still sporting its infamous mural of two cowboys with their arms around each other on its south-facing wall but the rest of the building — formerly right yellow and covered in liquor logos — has been repainted a subdued reddish brown which will no doubt be a relief to the local residents association.

Inside the new Barn is very much like the old Barn — rustic and a lot of fun. The restored club has offers a functional cruising space on the third floor with a new reasonably sized backroom. The second-storey dancefloor was hopping on opening night and two sweet shirtless young men were working the second-floor bar. The first floor is much the same as it was before former owner Janko Naglic died in 2004 with its more laidback dancefloor, bar and brick fireplace. The security staff was friendly, helpful and unobtrusive though wired up in state-of-the-art communication gear.

There was a moving tribute to Naglic, the founder of The Barn who was killed on Oct 27, 2004; his black-and-white portrait now graces the mantle of the first-floor fireplace. It is a wonderful tribute to the original owner, but also to what the new owners and management are trying to do: reestablish a lost and valued community institution.