Another gay dance club will close its doors for good after one last big bash during WorldPride. Fly owner Keir MacRae broke the news to his employees over the weekend that the club he’s operated for 15 years on Gloucester Street will shut down when his current lease expires June 30.
The adjacent resto-bar Seven Deadly Sins, also owned by MacRae, has already closed and is operating only for private functions.
The building Fly and Seven Deadly Sins are located in has been approved for redevelopment as a 29-storey condo, although developers have not announced plans to begin construction. MacRae says the landlord offered him the option of renewing his lease but demanded a large rent increase for anything more than a short-term extension. MacRae says that keeping the club going just a year at a time doesn’t make sense.
“It’s never been a fly-by-night operation. We plan our events months ahead. The numbers and the terms that they wanted didn’t make sense.”
MacRae says he has been in talks with other promoters about selling the club but hasn’t received serious offers.
“It’s a great place and central; I hope someone takes it over,” he says. “It really depends on whether the landlord wants to come to a deal with someone. The space is there, the liquor licence is there, it has a dancefloor. There’s nothing like it in downtown Toronto.”
Fly is the last of the big gay dance clubs in Toronto’s gay village to announce its closure. Zipperz announced last year that it would be closing as the building is turned into a condo.
City zoning bylaws introduced a decade ago make it impossible to open new dance clubs outside the Entertainment District, generally south of Queen Street. Fly is grandfathered into the zoning bylaw.
“The city’s not doing a whole lot to protect gay businesses — sometimes actively discouraging them, especially dance clubs,” MacRae says. “Dance clubs have always been a significant part of gay culture, and the city is not allowing gay dance clubs in the Village.”
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has previously told Xtra that she would support granting variances for Fly or Zipperz if they choose to relocate to other venues in the Village, but MacRae says he hasn’t considered moving the club.
“We just decided it’s time,” he says. “We’ve been doing it for 15 years. That’s a good lifespan for a club of that size.”
Fly and Seven Deadly Sins employ 44 people; most are part-time.
For many gay people around the world, Fly is best known as the filming location for the fake club Babylon in the Showtime series Queer As Folk, which ran from 2000 to 2005. Babylon was actually a composite of the interiors of Fly and the long-defunct club Five, which is currently being turned into a condo.