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Centretown Pub, one of Ottawa’s oldest gay bars shuts its doors

‘Like a death in the family,’ community member says

Centretown Pub in Ottawa abruptly closed on Jan 16, 2017. Credit: Centretown Pub/Facebook

After over three decades in operation, the Centretown Pub closed abruptly on Jan 15, 2017. The doors to the business were padlocked and an eviction notice was posted on its door. 

“We have done this because you have defaulted on your obligation to pay monthly rent and additional rent, most recently on December 25, 2016, January 1, 2017 and January 8, 2017,” said the notice from Windle Law Firm. 

The owners of the gay bar — which is the oldest in the city — had been trying to sell the business for about a year. Reports from last January found that the bar was listed for $399,000 and the building was listed for $849,000. 

“Unfortunately, with many factors in play, such as rising operational costs and a steady decline of foot traffic amongst them, the struggle to keep up with obligations was very real and constant,” Centretown Pub posted on its Facebook page on Jan 17. 

Xtra was unable to reach the bar’s owners directly for comment. 

“I’m kind of surprised that it did close the way it did,” says Michael Deyell, co-owner of Stonewall Wilde’s, a local business a few blocks from Centretown Pub. “I know it was the first bar that I ever went to in the late ’80s. That’s kind of the bar I came out in.”

Centretown Pub sits near the intersection of Bank and Somerset West Streets, which has historically been the heart of Ottawa’s queer community. But it’s been a rough year for queer business owners in Ottawa. Stonewall Wilde’s launched in October 2016 after merging two of the city’s oldest gay-owned businesses — the book and art store After Stonewall and the sex shop Wilde’s — to save them from a similar fate. 

“It’s a shame, because it’s one of the iconic gay-owned businesses in Ottawa,” Deyell says about the bar. “It’s sad to see something like that close.” 

Although there are two gay bars left in Ottawa, neither are in the historic heart of queer life in the city. But there are signs that new life is being breathed into the city’s gay village.  

At the end of March, Shawn Pudsey will be opening T’s Pub in a building across the street from Centretown Pub. “I think there’s still a space in the gay community for gay bars,” Pudsey says. “We hope to fill that space.” 

However, Pudsey also says Centretown Pub will be missed in the community. “It’s always been our place to go,” he says about the bar. “It really feels like a death in the family.” 

Although it recognized its closure marks an end to an era, the bar also said in its Facebook post that it would remain part of the city’s queer community. “We won’t abandon our community and the outpouring of support from many sources have shown that, indeed, our community is still strong and caring,” the post said. 

“Although a chapter has closed in our community, don’t despair,” it continued. “Like any good story, there is always a new chapter at the end of an old one.”