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EXCLUSIVE: New owner set to unveil revived Crews & Tango

Despite rumours, 508 Church St will not be torn down

Disillusioned dykes and dance fiends caught a glimmer of hope in January, in the form of a liquor licence application hanging from the front window of Crews/Tango at 508 Church St.

Nearly a year has passed since the closure of the popular Church St bar. Known for its drag shows, large dancefloors and eclectic mix of gays and lesbians, the two-storey complex was regarded by many as the very heartbeat of village nightlife. Its closure dealt a blow to the Church Street bar circuit.

And so, the nightmarish image of condo towers that kept twinks awake at night can finally be dismissed. Crews is back…

… almost.

As per Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) regulations, the application was posted for 30 days to allow for community objections. Lisa Murray, media relations person for the AGCO, says none were made.

“I know the community is excited,” says Paras Prashad, the new owner of Crews & Tango Restaurant and Bar. “There’s been so much controversy,” he says, referring to the flurry of rumours that have persisted for nearly a year.

Prashad, along with co-owner and life partner, Michael, applied for business registration in January. He claims competition for the hot location was fierce, and the couple’s business proposal beat out some 60 applicants.

According to Prashad, only a health inspection is pending, and other than that, he says, “She’s good to go.”

Bar staff applications have been arriving in the hundreds, he adds.

Prashad says those planning to carouse at Crews will be welcomed by a familiar motif, with an avant-garde flair — “the same concept with more ambiance, more exciting innovation.”

Prashad, who has a background in events management, plans to entice guests with regular theme nights and cultural events to offer “something new and exciting.”

He also hopes to capitalize on Toronto’s multiculturalism — something he feels is insufficiently represented in the gay community.

Eventually, Prashad says, guests won’t have to stagger over to Pizza Express to fill their stomachs. As the name suggests, Crews & Tango Restaurant and Bar will offer food for peckish patrons — “mostly tapas and finger foods,” Prashad says, adding the restaurant won’t be launched right away.

While “keeping the community feel” is an important business objective, Prashad and his partner plan to make Crews the headquarters of drag queendom in Canada.

“We want to make Crews the drag bar in Canada,” says Prashad. “We want everyone to have a chance to say, ‘I performed at Crews!’ That’s our goal.” He says drag kings will likewise have a chance to dazzle the main stage.

Although the reasons for the bar’s abrupt closure in May of last year remain unclear, insight from the AGCO’s Murray and regular Crews performer Amanda Roberts help dispel some rumours.

Despite popular reports of liquor licence violations, both Roberts and Murray confirm these were not among the reasons the bar shut down.

Murray confirmed the last liquor licence violation was in June of 2008, when Crews’ licence was suspended for 10 days due to “overcrowding.”

Murray says that in May of 2009, Crews’ licence “was in good standing with no pending violations.” After the bar closed, Murray says, the licence was “surrendered” since, according to regulations, “if you close [your establishment], you have to surrender your liquor licence.”

Roberts says the former owner, Gary Manz, simply decided he was “getting out of the business.”

Rug cutters desperate to hit Crews’ fabled dancefloors will have to wait a little longer before testing  the new digs, since an official opening date has yet to be determined.

But Prashad insists the vexation of villagers will be eased when the time is right.

“Soon,” he says with a suspenseful grin, “sooner than later.”

Stay tuned for more stories about the changing face of Church St.