UPDATE – Oct. 26: Still busy finishing the renovations, the owners have decided to cancel the Wednesday open house in order to have the club ready for the grand opening on Thursday.
Oct 24: Fierce flashers and dancing drag queens will tear up the dancefloor under glittering chandeliers and pink neon at Flash, the Village’s new members-only nightclub across from George’s Play on Church St.
And owners expect things to get a little raunchy.
After about six months of renovations, the club opens its door for the first time on Thursday for a members-only grand opening, owners George Pratt and Gilles Berthelot say.
Membership at the club for a year is $15 until opening night, then the price goes up to $25, Pratt says. Right now there are 150 members. Pratt expects to have about 2,000 once the club’s been open for a while.
Pratt says he decided to open a members-only club because it gives them more control over the entertainment and who gets let in the door.
“It’s been done [in Toronto], but it’s never been done in the gay community,” he says.
Across the street at Play, there has always been a roster of members, Pratt says, but it’s never been exclusive.
“Members have different privileges, but this club will be exclusively for members,” he says. “It’s not that hard to become a member here, but you still have to abide by the house rules, which we don’t have set up yet, but they will be forthcoming.”
Flash is meant to complement George’s Play, known in the Village as a good-humoured pickup bar filled with gay boys and girls, drag queens and drifters, playing bingo or shaking their hips to a Latin beat.
Hooking up is the name of the game at Flash as well, Pratt says; it’s just a little more sweaty and shirtless.
“Play is unique in the Latin community and the dancing is unique,” he says. “Here, it will be more geared to men only. Play is a mixed crowd. It’s got a lot of women and men. That gives it a different atmosphere. This will be a little more intense.”
Clientele can expect lavish drag shows and glittery performances on the catwalk stage while DJ Alain Plamondon spins retro dance and top-40 hits.
Overlooking the dancefloor, sexy men – “flashers” as Pratt calls them – will dance cheekily in the window on the second floor.
“That’s where the name came from,” he said. “Men will be up there flashing the crowd.”
A winding wood panel-covered staircase takes you up to the second floor where there’s another dancefloor, a lounge area, pool tables, a second bar and private VIP rooms.
The club, which has a capacity of 450 people, is about 4,000 square feet, Berthelot says. The building itself dates back to the early 1900s. The renovation has cost about $500,000, Pratt says.
The owners took pains to keep as many historic features as possible.
Before it was transformed into Flash, the space housed Bigliardi’s Steak House, a Church St fixture since 1977, “probably Toronto’s most famous steak house,” he says, known for serving the likes of Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Bette Midler and Wayne Gretzky.
“This is the corner where Bette Midler sat during the makeup scene with her husband in The First Wives’ Club,” Pratt says. “Maybe we should get a table set up there and call it Bette’s Corner.”
Upstairs, Pratt opens another door leading to a private room, a secret spot Sinatra would take dinner guests before sneaking out the back door, he says.
Pratt hopes Flash will bring some new people to Church St, something the Village really needs, he says.
“And bring back some customers who haven’t come to Church St in a long time,” Berthelot added. “Because a lot of the gay community have moved away, so they haven’t been coming to Church St because it’s the same old, same old, same old.”
The end of the tour was also the best part, Pratt says, a rich and moody ballroom with a fireplace and high ceilings, which reminds the owners of the Titanic.
The VIP lounge was once the meeting spot for three former prime ministers, he says. It was also the place where team members from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Yankees met for drinks.
“We didn’t touch this room,” Pratt said. “This room has so much history. It has a big sports connection. But it was never used by the gay community before.”