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Montreal’s ‘gay Disneyland’ Bourbon Complex closes

Closure marks end of an era for city’s huge gay nightlife complexes

Montreal’s Bourbon Complex is for sale on the Sotheby’s realty site for $8.5 million. Credit: sothebysrealty.ca/

Montreal’s gay village suffered another blow when the famed Bourbon Complex shut down in April, following longstanding rumours of its impending demise.

The closure comes after several Village establishments closed their doors over the past two years, including Gotha Lounge, Parking Nightclub and Le Drugstore in October 2013.

Both the Bourbon Complex and Le Drugstore were opened by disgraced former Montreal cop Normand Chamberland, who resigned from the vice squad in 1984 after he was nailed for running one of Quebec’s biggest illegal gambling operations.

Chamberland then bought La Taverne du Village (where the boarded-up Le Drugstore stands today). La Taverne is — with former Priape owner Bernard Rousseau’s now-defunct gay-porn Cinema du Village — credited with giving Montreal’s Village its name.

Ignoring city regulations, Chamberland then turned his tavern into a massive three-storey complex that boasted several bars on six levels with four outdoor terraces. He renamed the complex Le Drugstore and his ostentatious building ushered in the era of the huge gay complex in Montreal’s Village.

Chamberland also demolished a city block of rundown houses to build his Bourbon Complex, a New Orleans–style gay Disneyland of restaurants, bars and outdoor terraces, a 35-room hotel, the legendary disco La Track, a sauna, ice cream parlour and a wedding chapel. The Bourbon became arguably the Village’s best-known tourist attraction, and Chamberland boasted it was the “biggest gay entertainment complex in the world.”

In 2005, Chamberland surrendered both the Bourbon Complex and Le Drugstore to creditors, then died of heart-related health problems in 2008 at the age of 61. Le Drugstore became the city’s primary bar for the lesbian community but closed in October 2013 when its then-owner could no longer afford the $34,000 monthly rent.

Meanwhile, a couple blocks east at the Bourbon Complex, financial problems combined with structural faults in the building forced the current owners to close shop in April.

Fugues magazine reports that during a recent routine inspection, Quebec Régie du bâtiment inspectors declared some Bourbon Complex floors were not regulation width “by several inches.” So two restaurants — Milsa and Resto-Média Pizza — were forced to close. Then the Bourbon’s last remaining establishment, the Club Sandwich diner, closed on April 20 when Hydro-Quebec cut its electricity.

The writing was already on the wall last autumn when the Quebec Superior Court recommended the entire complex be put up for sale to settle outstanding debts by all parties. The building is currently for sale on the Sotheby’s website for $8.5 million.

The closures of the Bourbon Complex and of Le Drugstore mark the end of the era of huge Montreal LGBT nightlife complexes that Chamberland spearheaded 20 years ago.