Vancouver
4 min

The Quadra rides again

Legendary lesbian bar holds 25-year reunion

They all light up at the mention of the Quadra. There’s Suzan Krieger, the former co-owner of the legendary lesbian bar, which left an indelible mark on Vancouver’s queer landscape in the 18 months that it flourished. And Crema, who still holds the record for most firings and re-hirings as the Quadra’s notorious bartender. And Trigger, who was barely legal drinking age when the bar opened in 1979, but a dedicated regular nonetheless.



We’re all sitting on a narrow strip of grass in front of 1055 Homer St, reminiscing about the very special space that once stood here. These days, the address is home to a row of posh, new Yaletown townhouses. But 25 years ago, it made history.



Krieger still remembers the day she and her business partner, Heather Farquahar, first conceived of the Quadra. They were living in the Eastside, with no money and no jobs, when Krieger suddenly noticed an ad for a straight cabaret called the Quadra. The owner was asking $150,000 for the place, which was a “pretty good price” at the time, Krieger says.



So, on a Thursday evening in early July 1979, the partners went to see him. They asked the owner to give them until Monday to come up with the down payment. He agreed. Then he handed over the keys.



Krieger and Farquahar wasted no time. They surreptitiously tested the keys, then printed off a stack of flyers and handed them to all the lesbians they could find. “And we opened the next night-and we were packed!” Krieger laughs.



That weekend, the women earned their $5,000 down payment. And the Quadra was born. “We went from no money, no jobs, no prospects to the most popular place in town!”



The Quadra was unique, they all agree now. For starters, it was the first-and to this day, only-entirely lesbian-owned and -run bar in Vancouver. While there were a handful of gay bars operating at that time, such as BJs and the Gandy Dancer, and at least one surviving straight-owned-queer-tolerating dive (the Vanport), there was nothing specifically by and for lesbians.



Until the Quadra opened its doors on Jul 6, 1979.



“It was very empowering,” Trigger recalls. “You were going to a space that was owned by women and run for women.”



“It was a club in the true sense of the word,” Krieger says. “It was our place.”



It was groundbreaking, Trigger adds.



And it was upstairs, Crema notes. “We weren’t in a hole, we weren’t creeping downstairs. Every one of our bars had always been in the basement,” she explains. “This one: you almost needed an oxygen tank to go upstairs! Right there, it was a step up for women’s bars.”



Long before the townhouses adorned the block, the Quadra (briefly re-named Lucy’s by the lesbians in its latter days) sat atop a postal sorting station. It had a “nondescript” marquis out front and a parking lot, famous for its after-hours action, next door. Krieger says she used to lie on the roof, watching the women and occasionally throwing pebbles at them.



Crema still remembers the night she opened the bar and found masking tape Xs plastered all over it. There were Xs on the pool table, Xs on the dance floor, Xs “in the middle of the fucking bar,” she laughs. It didn’t take her long to figure out what they meant. They marked all the spots where Krieger had had sex with her two dates the previous night.



“Those were crazy days,” Trigger says.



“Oh, we had so much fun,” Krieger smiles.



Then there were the male drag shows. “We didn’t call it drag kings back then,” Trigger notes.



But the Quadra Players helped pave the way for the drag kings of later generations. They were huge, Krieger says. “People were just lined up to see the shows.”



And the shows didn’t end there. In addition to its groundbreaking male drag troupe, the Quadra staged many skit nights, including leather-and-chain numbers and a variety of other hot scenes.



The bar also played host to some lesbian artists who were just starting out. Ferron used to hang around the Quadra, casually strumming her guitar, Trigger says. And don’t forget Lois Bromfield, the woman who went on to kiss Roseanne Barr on TV, Krieger adds. Bromfield once played the Quadra as a stand-up comic.



Queer entertainers performing in a queer space for queer audiences-“those kinds of things just didn’t happen in those days,” Trigger says.



“We had something great,” Krieger sighs.



And then it was over. It all happened so fast, she says. As their first lease drew to a close, Krieger and Farquahar went to the bank to ask for a loan to make some improvements. The bank sent an agent to check out the bar. The agent realized it was a lesbian bar and complained to his bosses. The bankers called the owner. And “the guy flipped,” Krieger says.



No lease renewal, no loan. It was a viable business in a homophobic time, she says.



Trigger still can’t believe the legendary bar was only open for 18 months. “It still amazes me” that so much could have happened in so short a time, she says. It may have been short-lived, but the Quadra still “lives in the memories of everyone.”



It’s those memories and more that she and Krieger and Crema are hoping to bring back to life this month, at the reunion they’re organizing to mark what should have been the Quadra’s 25th anniversary. The two-day party will run Aug 28-29 and feature some of the original DJs and music, plus photos and memorabilia galore. And, of course, the people.



Women are apparently coming in from across Canada and even the US to attend this reunion. And the organizers can’t wait. “I’m very excited,” Krieger says. “I’m getting my hair cut and my teeth cleaned!”



“And she’s bringing her masking tape, too!” Trigger laughs.



THE QUADRA REUNION.

Aug 28. 8 pm-4 am.

Club 23. 23 West Cordova.

Aug 29. 3-8 pm.

Celebrities. 1022 Davie St.

Tix $15 at Little Sister’s & Tech Direct PC.