I Love the Queer NightLife

Richard Burnett

“Oh I, I love the nightlife, I got to boogie, on the disco ‘round, oh yeah!” out disco diva Alicia Bridges sang in her 1978 smash hit “I Love the Nightlife (Disco ‘Round)” which is still an anthem for queer nightlife in Montréal, where dance music never went out of style.

The lively bars, clubs and restaurants in Montréal’s Gay Village are busy seven days and nights a week, but there are also a growing number of LGBTQ safe spaces throughout the city, from queer-oriented establishments to special LGBTQ nights in mainstream clubs. Here are some popular choices outside the Village.

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OriGn

Located in a historic 19th century building, LGBTQ-friendly nightspot OriGn regularly books top Montréal and international DJs since opening on Rue de la Commune in July 2017. Located across the street from the Old Port and close to many of the finest restaurants in the old town, the nightclub opens at 10 pm. OriGn also hosts queer events such as Lumberjack and the Klubnacht techno-kink night. A refreshing queer-positive oasis in Old Montréal, just steps away from where sailors used to cruise the streets 200 years ago. While at OriGn, check out the ruins of the 18th-century fortified city’s enclosure wall in the club’s basement washroom.

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Brasserie Harricana

It’s no secret there is a dearth of lesbian bars around the globe. Montreal is lucky to have Brasserie Harricana – part restaurant (with a wonderful brunch menu), part bar, and part microbrasserie (craft brewery) – located on Rue Jean-Talon between Little Italy and Park-Ex. Founded by Marie-Pier Veilleux and Cynthia Santamaria in December 2014, this girl-powered microbrewery is a hit with all Montrealers, notably LGBTQ women. Brasserie Harricana has also hosted events by Lesbians Who Tech and Lez Spread The Word.

Café Cléopatra

Located on Montreal’s Boulevard Saint-Laurent – known locally as “The Main”(or “La Main” in French) – Café Cleopatra is the last hold-out of Sin-City-era Montreal’s fabled red-light district. A show bar since 1895, female strippers gyrate downstairs for a straight clientele while drag queens, burlesque dancers and other entertainers ply their trades in the upstairs cabaret for a mixed and queer clientele. With their monthly shows, Montréal’s popular drag troupe House of Laureen follows in the footsteps of such local drag legends as Vicki Lane, Twilight and Gerry Cyr. Cleo’s also hosts burlesque queen Velma Candyass and her monthly Candyass Cabaret, fetish nights and other alternative and indie productions that celebrate sexual freedom and Montréal’s demi-monde. Plus, Cleo’s vintage 1970s décor and disco lights are a mind-blowing time warp.

The Cloakroom

Since opening in 2015, the sophisticated LGBTQ-friendly The Cloakroom bar inside the downtown Maison Cloakroom has become a much-buzzed-about establishment located in the heart of the Golden Square Mile on Rue de la Montagne. The late 19th-century building houses a high-end tailored menswear boutique with an on-site barber shop. In the foyer, a wood-paneled door leads you inside to an intimate 25-seat space – a high-end speakeasy of sorts – with a superb cocktail menu. Evening line-ups are not unusual, so my favourite time to drop by for a quiet martini is on a weekend afternoon after visiting the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

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Special Queer Nights

One of the most fun over-the-top LGBTQ nights in mainstream clubs is Hardcore Disco hosted by high-energy Montreal drag queens Miss Butterfly and Franky Dee at Club Electric Avenue on Montréal’s iconic downtown Crescent Street. Roughly 60 per cent of the clientele at Hardcore Disco (held the first Thursday of each month) is LGBTQ, the dancefloor is straight out of Saturday Night Fever and the set list is nothing but classic 1970s disco. More, more, more!

Over in the Plateau, Bar Belmont is home to the monthly Mec Plus Ultra (MPU for short). MPU co-founder François Guimond with J’vlyn d’Ark also produces the Berlin-inspired Klubnacht techno-kink night at OriGn in Old Montréal, while his MPU partner Guillaume Bell co-runs the LuvHaus - Soirée LGBTQ / Hochelaga at the BlockHaus bar in the East-End Hochelaga borough where many LGBTQ Montrealers live.

Veteran party promoter Jam Depaname always draws a fun and sexy crowd to his legendary DramaQueen nights.

And the Glitter Bomb dance party is held monthly at the LGBTQ-friendly indie concert venue Bar Le Ritz PDB on Rue Jean-Talon. Popular with the young set, this night is relaxed, friendly and really fun, with queer DJs and drag performances.

Monthlies are also organized in various establishments throughout Montréal by Lez Spread The Word, Lesbians Who Tech and Queer Tech MTL.

Queer Sunshine in Mile-Ex

Montréal’s Mile Ex neighbourhood is home to many LGBTQ residents and a flourishing queer scene. Anchoring it all is Notre Dame des Quilles, a steamy-windowed neighbourhood bar that is more than just a local watering hole – it has become a city institution, presenting many of Montréal’s finest LGBTQ comedians, DJs and queer film nights.

Another local institution, Alexandraplatz Bar, is a great spot to grab a drink in summertime when they open their popular sunny patio. The brainchild of Penny Pattison and Bernadette Houde (who you may remember as Bernie Bankrupt from LOE – a.k.a. electronic band Lesbians on Ecstasy – whose eponymous debut album was named The Advocate magazine’s top album of 2005), Alexandraplatz is a queer hub, but is popular with all locals.

Over at the nearby Never Apart centre, contemporary art and LGBTQ issues take centrestage in their galleries and music studio. Never Apart also produces its superb Legend Series (superstar guests have ranged from Bruce LaBruce to Joey Arias). But Never Apart is also a mind-blowing party space which hosts mixed pool parties each summer. Visit their Events page for the latest updates.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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