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Glad Day Bookshop taking over Byzantium space on Church Street

Renovations begin mid-August, move to follow

Glad Day Bookshop, the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore plans to re-open at 499 Church St as a bookstore-coffee shop-cocktail bar.

Credit: Jeremy Willard/Daily Xtra

Glad Day Bookshop is moving from a cramped, albeit charming, second-floor on Yonge Street to a massive ground-floor in Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village — the space currently occupied by Byzantium, a martini bar and restaurant.

“The location and facility we’ve secured is what’s currently known as Byzantium, at 499 Church St,” says Michael Erickson, one of the owners of Glad Day, the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookstore. “We’re taking over the space, the lease, the liquor licenses, the equipment.”

“Byzantium in its current form is closing.”

At 250 square metres, the new location is more than three times larger than the current Yonge space. It also boasts a back patio, bar, large storage area downstairs and is wheelchair accessible. Erickson plans to install a wheelchair-accessible washroom as well.

The owners hope the larger, more versatile venue will allow them to incorporate several new revenue streams. “We’ll be re-opening as a bookstore-coffee shop-cocktail bar,” Erickson says. The current plan is to have the business operate as a coffee shop and bookstore during the day, and a bar and performance space at night. It may even become a boardgame café a few days a week.

“I like to imagine that we’re going to create a little bit of a ‘back to Church’ movement,” he says. “A lot of people have become bored with, or disenfranchised by, the street, and hopefully this can be a cool, queer place that represents the whole community and not just a fraction of it.”

Many details still have to be worked out, but presently the owners plan to have fewer books on display at the new location — down from the current 4,000 titles to about 1,000.

“We’re going to focus on having current, new, diverse titles on display,” Erickson says. “We’ll still have all of our titles on site, we’ll just have the older stuff in storage below. So if someone wants a title we can just run down and get it.”

Glad Day began fundraising in June 2016, to help secure the deal for the new location.

This inspired a lot of speculation from fans of the store —  the Village has no shortage of recently vacated venues to choose from. Erickson says the new location had to be secret, in part because the owners of Byzantium “wanted the opportunity to let their staff know directly [about the business’ closure], rather than having them hear through word of mouth or the media.”

The deal is now done and the new location is Glad Day’s as of mid-August. Erickson says that the opening date will depend on renovation plans, and that those renovation plans depend on how much money they can fundraise.

As of Thursday, July 21,  the store’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, had raised over $33,000 from more than 400 donors.

“The funds that we’ve received from the community in-store and online has been fantastic,” Erickson says. “The sheer number of backers [on Indiegogo] alone lets us know that we made the right move, and shows us the kind of community support we have.”

But Glad Day still needs to raise more money to pay for the move. “There’s a lot of things in motion behind the scenes, on top of the crowdfunding campaign,” he says. “We’re in lots of great talks with people about being angel investors, and there’s a few big fundraisers also planned to help us meet our goals.”