With recent bar closures, there are almost no places left for underaged queer youth to meet and party in the city.
“I used to go to Boots. Boots was really great but they closed down,” says Ruben, 16. “Usually every Saturday night we’d go there for a while. A lot of us just came to the scene – and it was really good. They didn’t hassle you about ID.”
“I cried because it was my favourite club,” says Adam, 16, remembering the day Boots closed back in June. “We took home mementos.”
For many queer teens, it wasn’t only their favourite bar, but their only bar. When Boots closed, the limited options narrowed drastically.
Industry and Sanctuary (on Queen St W) both shut down this summer; both practiced looser door policies and attracted a large number of queer youth.
“For a lot of people there isn’t something else,” says Ruben. “Not everywhere is accepting of young people. A lot of places card.”
“It happens – it’s understandable,” says Toni, who says she has been kept out of several gay and lesbian bars. “I’m only 16; if the cops come in and catch me drinking, it’s the bar that’ll get busted for it, not me. I don’t want to put them in that danger – when I can go drink in a park.”
Buddies bar management at Tallulah’s Cabaret has been put in exactly the situation that Toni describes. Since Pride Day, it has been visited repeatedly by police checking patrons’ ages. Door staff now keep a strict policy that everyone needs ID.
“There aren’t a lot of places for youth to go, I hear it all the time,” says the University Of Toronto’s Kevin Beaulieu, a member of the committee that organizes the popular all-ages Homo Hops on campus. “We’ve had requests to make these things every two weeks just because it’s somewhere for them to go – rather than hanging out with nothing to do.”
Nicki, 17, says she has no where else to go but the Homo Hops. She was interviewed at the August edition of the monthly dance. “And to take a walk down Church Street and The 519. That’s about all that’s open to me.”
The U of T Hops attract a couple of hundred eager underage partiers, along with the college age crowd. Attendees receive a security bracelet allowing them to drink if they can produce ID – but everyone can join the party.
Beaulieu says the Hops aren’t profit-driven.
“Liquor sales aren’t our measure of success. We don’t rely on these for our financial well being. I don’t mean to put bars down. They’ve got to pay their rent just to stay around. We’re fortunate being at the university as we are. We’re in a better position to run this type of event.”
Recognizing the service it is providing to queer youth of all ages,
the U of T group extended its Hops to the summer – despite
university students not being at school.
“This thing is one of the highlights of my month,” says Toni, 16. “I’d love it if there were more dances like this. It’s open and accepting. Everyone’s friendly which doesn’t happen in other places.”
Shawn Ryker, manager of Fly (a club on Gloucester), remembers when he was this young and there was an alternative. Until the mid ’80s, there was an all ages bar open every weekend – The Manatee, on St Joseph.
The next Homo Hop will be held on Sat, Sep 16 at the SAC Hangar (100 St George). The special 30th anniversary Hop (marking 30 years of an organzied gay group at U of T) is Sat, Dec 2 – and students are soliciting memories of Homo Hops of the past. Send your recollections to LGBTOUT, 73 St George St, room 133, Toronto M5S 2E5; or e-mail email@example.com.