In an attempt to diversify Halifax’s gay nightlife, local queers have started a monthly takeover of straight bars.
People wearing red and pink trickled into Tribeca Bistro Bar on Feb 29 to take part in Halifax’s first Guerilla Gay Fare. The group plans to stage a straight bar takeover on the last Friday of every month.
“My friends and I don’t go out very often because we don’t enjoy the regular offerings for gay people,” says Peter Graham, sporting a pink and red turban. “It’s nice to have something different and to meet new people.”
The idea behind Guerilla Gay Fare originated in San Francisco in 2000 for the same reason: the gay community was tired of nightlife options. The group was called Guerilla Queer Bar and developed the slogan “Don’t Clone, Colonize”. Just 50 people showed up at the first takeover in San Francisco, but since then, cities across North America and around the world have adopted the idea.
In 2007, Ottawa gays launched their own group called Guerilla Gay Fare, which inspired Philana Dollin to start a movement in Halifax. She convinced her partner Melinda Lively to help out and they rounded up Benjie Nycum, who took part in Guerilla Gay Fare when living in Ottawa. They started a Facebook group open to anyone and 289 members quickly joined.
Philana, Benjie and Melinda want to provide queers with an alternative to the only gay bars in the city: Reflections and Menz Bar.
“Reflections is dark and dingy but sometimes it’s the only option,” says Melinda.
Philana agrees. “There are so many bars here that are better and numbers speak, so why not?” she says.
Roughly 85 supporters came and went throughout the night. Though the bar’s staff were not told about the event in advance, bouncer Tim Cosgrove says the Guerilla Gay Fare participants blended in with the rest of the crowd.
“Tribeca is very queer friendly anyways,” says Cosgrove. “They fit in very well and create a great vibe.”
The organizers originally hoped to hold the event at the Aqua Lounge, known to most locals as a straight bar. Unfortunately, that venue was booked for a private party, and organizers were forced to move the takeover to Tribeca at the last minute, which may have confused some participants.
Philana says although Tribeca was welcoming, Guerilla Gay Fare’s goal is to take over a different bar each month. “We want to find spaces gay people may not normally come to,” she says.
On the day of the takeover, organizers use Facebook to announce the venue and dress code for the night. At the first Ottawa Guerilla Gay Fare, participants made a huge visual impact by wearing white shirts as they took over an unsuspecting straight bar.
Despite the inherent statement made by gays taking over a public space, many participants don’t define their actions as “activism”.
“It’s about coming together in a different way and being silly,” says Graham.
Guerilla Gay Fare Halifax.
Next takeover: Fri, Mar 28.