The Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN) is looking for a new space to host its biweekly social gatherings, with Somerset Street West restaurant Burgers on Main closing its doors this weekend, sometime after July 18.
Open for nearly two years, the high-end hamburger joint is the second in a franchise; the flagship location sits in the village of Manotick, on Main Street, just outside Ottawa.
OSPN's George Hartsgrove says the group has frequented the Somerset establishment for close to two years, and the staff has always “been very opening and welcoming” to Ottawa’s queer community.
“We’re really sad that we’re going to lose our space,” he says.
In addition to its biweekly gatherings, OSPN has hosted Christmas and Pride parties at the restaurant.
General manager Gary Stacey says the business always intended to be gay and lesbian-friendly.
“When it comes to the gay community, they’ve been wonderful. They’ve been good for us; we’ve been good for them,” Stacey says. “Every time Pride is in town, we’d always do a little something entertainment-wise upstairs.”
The restaurant’s proximity to Centretown Pub (CP) meant that on some days CP would account for up to 20 percent of Burgers on Main’s business.
“We’d be running food over all day,” Stacey says with a laugh.
Stacey says it wasn’t his decision to close the restaurant.
“I’m broken-hearted. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it takes a good year or two to build up a clientele, a reputation and get regulars, including some from the gay and lesbian community,” he says.
“It’s not our decision. The owners do things for numbers, and they’re telling us that the business isn’t doing bad — it just wasn’t doing well enough.
“If you have a building this size, you pay for square footage,” he says. “The building’s overhead was probably higher. If you go to a lot of hamburger spots, all of their places are one level, very small, [with a] get them in, get them out [philosophy].”
On the afternoon of July 17, OSPN will host its final meeting at Burgers on Main, on the upstairs level.
As for the future, OSPN is planning a trip to Prince Edward County wine country for September and is on the lookout for a new downtown space.
“If anyone knows of a private space that is handicapped-accessible, does decent food and beverage, and is GLBT-welcoming, that’s what we need,” Hartsgrove says.
OSPN meets every first and third Wednesday of the month.