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Big Johnson’s moves in at Church and Maitland

New bar and grill set to open before Pride

Keith Jalbert, one of the owners of the new gay bar at Church and Maitland streets. Credit: Andrea Houston

The managers of a new gay bar at the corner of Church and Maitland streets are racing to finish renovations so they can open in time for Pride Week.

Big Johnson’s Bar and Grill will replace the Village Rainbow Café, which shut its doors in January. The space has sat vacant since then. 

The three managers say they have been watching the location for a while. 

Keith Jalbert, who is gay, says he is looking forward to a busy summer season and a bustling patio with a party atmosphere. “It’s going to be completely different. We’re investing a lot of money to make it more modern, comfortable and welcoming. A lot of people tell us it’s the perfect bar with the perfect patio.”

The managers plan to have a DJ spinning and drag artists performing throughout the Pride season.

“Food will be ‘all fresh and local,’ says co-manager Tom Missios. Expect the menu to consist of creative pub fare, such as sandwiches, burgers, appetizers, dinner specials and brunch on the weekends. “The kitchen will make everything from scratch as much as possible.”

The managers hope their “high-end” martinis ensure they stand out from other bars on the Village strip.

Co-manager Chris Kay says there will be 15 televisions throughout the bar tuned into sports and other major events, but Jalbert stresses that it will not be a sports bar.

“We are smack in the middle of the gay village, so we want to be a part of that,” he says.

Kay says the managers plan to be active in the community. “We will be involved with the BIA, community groups, charities and area gay organizations.”

This announcement comes on the heels of news this week of another gay bar opening at Church and Alexander, in the former George’s Play