Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Woody’s most memorable moments

A timeline of the legendary gay bar


Woody’s first-ever ad in Xtra was simply its name, address and the words “glad to be gay.” The bar opened its doors July 26, 1989, exposing its randy rhino horn and almost entirely mustachioed staff to the public for the first time. Behold, a timeline of the bar’s most notable events and accomplishments.

Woody’s sells food, making it possible to eat a Horny Rhino Hot Dog while listening to kd lang’s “Big Boned Gal.” The popular Sunday brunch ran until 2000.

Woody’s kicks off a tradition of supporting local groups and teams by hosting the Tour of Toronto ’89 volleyball tournament.

Bad Boys Nite Out begins every Tuesday — because you have to be a bad boy to spend a Tuesday night at a bar.

Woody’s advertisements include the names of songs it would play that night. According to one ad in Xtra, a visit to Woody’s would mean a night of rockin’ out to Kate Bush’s “Sensual World,” Bonnie Raitt’s “Thing Called Love” and David Bowie’s “Panic in Detroit.”

Woody’s is heavily involved with JOLD (Jocks or Leather and Denim), a community group that gives out awards in categories such as best bartender, best community event, best fundraiser and more.

On its first anniversary, Woody’s hammers home its rhino logo by publishing a full-page, highly detailed and beautiful drawing of a rhino in Xtra.

The first Mr Woody’s Leatherman contest begins.

Woody’s begins its annual win-a-date contest, where patrons can win a date with a staff member of their choosing: $1 per ballot, and all proceeds go to the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.

The bar starts a monthly Woody’s “Man of the Month” tradition. The first man is Rick Wood, a long-distance swimmer about to attempt a double crossing of Lake Erie to raise funds for the Canadian Diabetes Association. Pledge sheets are available at the bar.

Woody’s challenges owners, staff and patrons of all other bars and restaurants to participate in From All Walks of Life 1991, an AIDS walkathon.

Woody’s begins a recurring event called Miss Draft, where folks can win prizes for their drinking technique, evening wear and ability to answer swill-testing questions. Hosted by Crystal Lite, the event is a fundraiser for Ward’s Retreat and the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

Woody’s hosts its first underwear party, with the slogan “Come in your pants!”

Woody’s introduces what is perhaps one of its most bizarre slogans: “Feeling bonerable? Like, come on home to Woody’s.”

When folks donate a large stuffed animal to the Woody’s Christmas toy drive, Woody’s gives $10 to charity.
Woody’s buys a full-page ad in Xtra just to print the message “Take care of each other.”

Late 1992
The Best Chest competition begins, luring pec-hungry pervs out to the bar for a glimpse of muscular man bosoms.

Woody’s hosts its first down-home screech Newfie night.

Priape Toronto is opening, and Woody’s hosts the launch party, advertising “Help us welcome those Montreal men to our neighbourhood.”

Woody’s opens its nautically themed counterpart, Sailor. A short time later, the bar holds its first Sailor of the Year contest. Men compete in such categories as street wear, sailor wear and swim wear to win a cruise and $300.
Woody’s hosts its first Latino Night, complete with tequila boys and a draw for a trip for two to Mexico.

Growing Pride attendance brings the crowds at Woody’s to dangerous proportions.

For Halloween, preposterous possums compete in a Dame Edna look-alike competition, with a chance to win $300.

Woody’s throws a launch party for RuPaul’s new album Foxy Lady, which includes the single “Snapshot.”

Woody’s continues the nights where staff donate their tips to ACT, with the total being matched by the bar; by 1997, the bar has raised $100,000.

In a benefit for Fashion Cares 1997, Woody’s auctions off RuPaul’s sequined high heels, Antonio Sabato Jr’s autographed underwear and Rosie O’Donnell’s autographed Hush Puppies watch.

Woody’s strongly recommends voting for Olivia Chow and Kyle Rae as city councillors and Barbara Hall as mayor.

Late 1990s
Woody’s makes it to the top five in the entire province for beer sales.

Their ninth-anniversary extravaganza is a salute to Studio 54, complete with disco divas, go-go boys from Remington’s and music by DJ Mark Falco.

In addition to extended bar hours and coverless entry, New Year’s Eve at Woody’s has a “New Year’s Baby,” courtesy of Remington’s. (Anyone have any idea what this means? Is it bad?)

Hosted by Pepsi, the Best Legs competition kicks off with a chance to win $200 in cash prizes.

The bar gains international fame when its façade is used in Queer as Folk, inspiring gaggles of gays to make pilgrimages to Woody’s and have their photos taken out front.

Miss Conception wins Drag Idol at Zelda’s; part of her winning package is a booking at Woody’s. She calls it her “big break.”

Local laws change, and Woody’s installs a glass-walled smoking area.

Woody’s celebrates its Sweet 16 with a high-school-style evening. Georgie Girl is the head mistress, Donnarama is the class clown, and Farra N Hyte and Heaven Lee Hytes are the cheerleaders.

Woody’s debuts its annual Smirnoff Czarina Pageant with a $2,000 first prize. The first winner is Pussy Noir, who performed Jully Black’s “Seven Day Fool” with Black in the audience!

Woody’s celebrates 20 years with Big Daddy. Fab magazine features Woody’s bartender Big Dave on its cover.

The Toronto Firefighters Calendar launch at Woody’s raises the temperature.

Woody’s sponsors the new gay dodgeball league, which packs the house every Monday night.

Woody’s theme for WorldPride — Nice Peace, a throwback to the 1970s — results in record sales and the highest attendance ever at the bar.