I love the queer nightlife
This article was updated on March 19, 2019.
“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.
It’s no secret there is a dearth of lesbian bars around the globe. Montréal is lucky to have Brasserie Harricana – part restaurant (with a wonderful brunch menu), part bar, and part microbrewery – located on Jean-Talon Street 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.
Located on Montréal’s Saint-Laurent Boulevard – known locally as “The Main”(or “La Main” in French) – Café Cléopatra is the last hold-out of Sin City-era Montréal’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 such as Bareoke (strip karaoke) that celebrate sexual freedom and Montréal’s demi-monde. Plus, Cleo’s vintage 1970s décor and disco lights are a mind-blowing time warp.
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 De la Montagne Street. 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.
Special queer nights
Over in the Plateau, Le Belmont sur le Boulevard is home to the long-running monthly MPU, while LuvHaus - Soirée LGBTQ / Hochelaga at the Blockhaus bar in East-End Hochelaga is popular with LGBTQ locals.
The Glitter Bomb dance party is held monthly at the LGBTQ-friendly indie concert venue Bar Le Ritz PDB on Jean-Talon Street. Popular with the young set, this night is relaxed, friendly and really fun, with queer DJs and drag performances.
A couple blocks further up the Main, the indie MainLine Theatre hosts Montréal Queer Slowdance and Montréal Mixed Showdance parties presented by Sherwin’s QUIRKY EVENTS.
Further up the Main, at the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Bernard Avenue in the Mile End district, PING PONG CLUB hosts a monthly for LGBTQ women.
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.
Over at the nearby Never Apart centre, contemporary art and LGBTQ issues take centrestage in the 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 that hosts mixed pool parties each summer. Visit its Events page for the latest updates.
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.