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Two new gaybourhood bars?

Could Marc Warman be his own worst enemy?

REVITALIZING QUEER NIGHTLIFE. Businessman Marc Warman plans to open at least two new queer bars near Church and Wellesley. Credit: Rob Salerno photo

Marc Warman, a young businessman from the United Kingdom says he has plans to reinvigorate gaybourhood nightlife by opening at least two new bars. But three prominent members of the queer community say they have had a hard time getting him to pay his bills.

Warman says he wants his yet-to-be-named establishments — at 501 Church St and 5 St Joseph St — to add something new to the village scene.

“Unless you want to hang out in a pub all day, there’s nothing else to do. A lot of people don’t want to go to Fly nightclub because it’s not their thing,” he says.

At press time, the windows at 501 Church St — formerly Vice — are covered with brown paper. There’s a sign on the door warning passersby “No Peeking.” Inside, the bar has been stripped to the walls with new bars and a DJ booth under construction.

“We’ll have kind of a lounge area for people to come in and relax and chill out during the day and then at night you can come in with your friends, have some drinks and it’ll be a good time,” says Warman. “We don’t have a dancefloor but it’s big enough to have a party.”

Warman is keeping further details under wraps until opening night, which he says will be sometime “in the next couple of weeks.”

“I like to keep people in suspense,” Warman teases.

The 5 St Joseph St opening is still months down the road, he says.

“The old Five nightclub is being taken down completely to four walls and it will be a completely brand new concept for the area,” says Warman.

Warman’s youthful face bubbles with excitement as he describes his plans for Church and Wellesley, but he’s no newcomer to clubland. He says he got his start as a busser at London’s legendary Heaven nightclub and that he founded ManCandy Radio, an online radio station, four years ago with his husband and business partner Scott Powell.

“The general public can be your best asset or your worst enemy if you don’t know how to handle them when they’re upset,” says Warman. “They’ll tell a million people and the business fails. As long as you learn how to deal with that and you pay your bills, look after your stuff, I really can’t see that being a problem.”

Still, even before his first bar opens, some in the queer community allege that Warman owes thousands in unpaid debts.

Fatima Amarshi, executive director of Pride Toronto, says ManCandy took more than a year to pay for its table at the 2006 Pride Toronto Gala and Awards.

“I’m not sure that without the support from other people in the community that we would have got paid,” says Amarshi.

Jayne Schneider, director of development for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, says ManCandy owes Buddies $2,500 in sponsorship money from a 2006 Buddies Pride party.

“We have followed up to get payment with him many times to no avail,” says Schneider. “We did contact him with a letter requesting payment as late as June this year and have not gotten a response to that letter. Being a nonprofit agent who supports the community, we depend on that kind of revenue.”

Party impresario Steve Ireson says he’s not likely to do business with Warman again after he says Warman stiffed him for “several thousand dollars” from an event the two collaborated on last year at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Ireson says he also worked briefly as an employee of Warman’s at ManCandy in early 2006, and that Warman owes him more money from that arrangement.

Nevertheless, Ireson says he hopes that Warman’s new Church St ventures are successful.

“Right now the community has been through so much negativity around the party scene. Whatever he does, I hope he does it well,” says Ireson.

Warman acknowledges disputes with Buddies, Ireson and “others,” but declines to talk about specific allegations.

“We’re in dispute,” he says. “It’s contractual reasons actually,” suggesting he is negotiating to solve any disagreements. But Schneider says that Warman has never complained about the services Buddies provided.

“He’s never said anything like that to me ever,” she says.

Ireson also says he hasn’t been contacted by Warman in some time.

Warman asked Xtra not to report on his alleged debts and suggested his accusers are “just trying to cause trouble.”

“The city and the AGCO [Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario] wouldn’t award us licences if were bad boys. It doesn’t work like that,” he says.

When Xtra would not promise not to report on the allegations, Warman warned that there would be “trouble” and threatened legal action, boasting of having the best lawyers in the city.

He told Xtra he may go after the publisher, the newspaper and the journalist.