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Henhouse says goodbye to Queer West

Bobby Valen bids farewell to queer dive bar

Bobby Valen, owner of The Henhouse, gave the bar one last goodbye before shutting its doors for good on June 28, 2015. Credit: David Hawe

Queer West has said goodbye to one of its mainstay bars.

The Henhouse, a small, queer dive bar on Dundas Street West near Dufferin Street, had one final party before it closed its doors for good on June 28, 2015. According to Now Magazine, the party featured a condo-shaped pinata, a nod to the Alto Condo development going up nearby.

The Henhouse was one of the group of bars that loosely formed Queer West, the nickname for the LGBT scene west of the Church-Wellesley Village in Toronto.  

Owner Bobby Valen (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they) confirmed that they are closing the bar, but declined to give further comment. “This was in fact my decision — but it is a pragmatic one,” Valen says. Valen says they plan to release a statement with further details in the next few days.

Valen purchased the Henhouse in 2012, promising at the time to maintain the bar’s warm and friendly vibe. Since then, it’s played host to a variety of Queer West-based events, including weekly RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties hosted by Igby Lizzard and Judy Virago.

“I think what I liked about the Henhouse the most was just that it was a very open atmosphere,” Lizzard says. “It didn’t feel exclusive; it felt very inclusive to anyone.” She performed at the Henhouse for four years, sometimes just hopping on stage to put on a show even if she wasn’t scheduled to.

“I definitely think there is going to be a missing piece to the west end, for Queer West,” she says.

HG Watson can be reached at hg.watson@dailyxtra.com or @hg_watson on Twitter.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the chosen name of the Henhouse’s owner as Bobby Valen. A previous version identified them as Bobby Beckett, the name that they used for their 2014 run for Toronto City Council.

This story is filed under News & Ideas, Nightlife, Toronto, News
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