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Big Johnson’s closes

New bar and grill to open in prime Church Street location in early 2013

The space at Church and Maitland will reopen in the new year as another bar and grill. Credit: Xtra file photo
A sign on the entrance to Big Johnson’s on Church Street states that the bar closed because the owner “failed to pay the rent.”
 
But manager Clayton DuQuene says the sign came as a shock to former staff. He says he thought the main reason the bar closed is because it “wasn’t a good fit” for the Church Wellesley Village.
 
As one of three managers at Big Johnson’s, DuQuene says he had very little contact with the owners. He knew them only by their first names, “Chris and Sam.”
 
“I really don’t know anything about that,” he says of the note. “It’s not [Chris and Sam’s] lease anymore.”
 
DuQuene, who will stay on as manager when the restaurant reopens under new ownership, says he is aiming to open for New Year’s Eve. If that doesn’t happen, he plans to reopen early in 2013. He couldn’t reveal the name of the new digs because it still has to be registered. “But it definitely won’t be anything like Big Johnson’s.” The new bar will be a “much better fit,” he says.
 
“[Big Johnson’s] just wasn’t executed properly,” he says. “It wasn’t the right ownership for the Village. The concept didn’t work, calling a place Big Johnson’s. I feel Church Street is over-sexualized. I didn’t think [we should have] called the restaurant Big Johnson’s. That’s just my personal opinion.
 
“I just think it was overdoing it. Church Street is already sexual. There’s no need to go further with that . . . You don’t see other bars called Dicks or Boobs. The name just didn’t sit well with me.”
 
The space will reopen as a bar and grill; the new owners are completing the renovations. DuQuene says the bar will continue to host the Friday bear nights, drag bingo and other special events.
 
DuQuene says he wants the space to be more welcoming for women. He plans to hire both men and women DJs and promoters to help the bar appeal to a broader clientele.
 
“We don’t want anyone to feel excluded, and we know lesbians are sometimes shut out of gay bars,” he says. “I feel like there aren’t a lot of places for gay women to go. Gay men have tons of places. That just doesn’t seem right to me.”