Ultimate summer guide to patios in the Gay Village

Richard Burnett

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.

This article was updated on July 24, 2020.

Montréal’s summertime patios – called “terrasses” by both English and French locals – are an idyllic way to while away leisurely hours sipping hot espressos or cold cocktails while people-watching. 

Spot all kinds of style-savvy yet easygoing, fun-oriented Montrealers strolling along the lively one-kilometre-long Aires Libres pedestrian mall on Sainte-Catherine Street in the Gay Village.

The pedestrian mall is open until October 15 and stretches east from Place Émilie-Gamelin near Berri-UQAM metro station to Papineau Avenue and is filled with patios and LGBTQ establishments to suit all tastes and thirsts.

The layouts of all bars and patios have been redesigned with physical distancing in mind. Numerous safety measures have been put in place at all establishments to ensure the safety of patrons and employees, and wearing a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory.

Al fresco lunches and family fun

A choice summertime destination, the Jardins Gamelin return to Place Émilie-Gamelin at the western end of the Village, just outside the Berri-UQAM metro station, from July 16 to September 27. For its sixth season, the Jardins Gamelin feature a space redesigned with physical distancing in mind. The snack bar and bar services are closed because of COVID-19, but visitors are welcome to pack lunches, brings refreshments and relax on the Jardins’ large terrasse.

The space is decorated with colourful illustrations by artist Vincent Tourigny and new plantings by Sentier Urbain, and the small stone “Gamélite” creatures popular with children are back.

While there is no scheduled programming this year, there will be spontaneous music, street art, circus and dance on the Jardins stage, along with a BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec) photo exhibition, and background music courtesy of ICI MUSIQUE. The playlist is available on the Radio-Canada OHdio app.

Constellation of drag stars

Named for Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte, Cabaret Mado is one of the busiest LGBTQ bars in the Village and a great place to spot celebrities and drag queens. The street front patio is a great spot to catch up with friends.

People watching

Enjoy a pitcher of ice-cold sangria on the street-level patio of Complexe Sky, one of Montréal’s oldest and largest LGBTQ establishments.

Queer hotspot

Bar Renard is one of Montréal’s trendiest bars, popular with LGBTQ and straight young hipsters. The music is never too loud, the waiting staff is cute, the bar boasts a wide selection of wines, microbrewery beers and cocktails as well as a street front patio in the heart of the action. Inside, because of its floral décor, Renard’s unisex washroom has become an iconic selfie location.

Lady Gaga’s favourite

Gay icon Lady Gaga and her entourage partied at District Vidéo Lounge when it opened in 2017. Patrons can select music videos on the indoor screens or hang out on the very comfortable patio.

Queens in the city

Legendary Montréal female impersonator Michel Dorion’s classic Bar Le Cocktail is a terrific nightclub to see live shows by many of the best drag performers in the city – including Dorion – and Le Cocktail’s comfortable and popular patio draws a great mix of people.

Where everybody knows your name

Sports bar Le Normandie on Atateken Street (formerly known as Amherst) is a terrific local watering hole where patrons can get liquored up cheaply. A local institution since 1981, the tavern features karaoke inside and has two of the nicest and busiest summer patios in the Village.

New kid on the block

Bar Minéral is the latest bar project from entrepreneurs and restaurateurs Mathieu Ménard and Steve Grenier. A wine bar by day and nightclub after dark, the “warmly glacial” space is an architectural delight and boasts a comfortable sunshiny patio.

Village Motel at Galerie Blanc

As you are strolling by, check out the Galerie Blanc open-air art gallery at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Wolfe streets. Their new Village Motel exhibition features the works of artists Christto & Andrew (Qatar/Denmark), Genevieve Gaignard (USA), Noah Kalina (USA), Elise Mesner (USA), Maya Fuhr (CA) and Alexandre Berthiaume (QC) whose works question the codes of popular culture. The gorgeous Galerie Blanc is an oasis in the Village, free and accessible at all times. The Village Motel exhibition runs from July 21 to April 30, 2021.

Richard Burnett

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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