If the dream of a neighbourhood bar where everybody knows your name seems like an impossible utopia, visit the Royal Phoenix Bar. The new Mile-End locale promises to be a hotspot: not only is it the first queer bar in the area, it’s technically the first in the city.
Explaining the venue’s identity, part owner and artistic director Val Desjardins stresses the importance of community. “Being queer for us means being inclusive. We want to hang out with sweet people who have fun while accepting diversity. It’s not about sexuality or gender bending, it’s about embracing and promoting creativity with a positive joie de vivre and a huge respect for others.”
Aside from housing a variety of expressly queer parties like Faggity Ass Fridays and Gaybash, it’s a versatile and vibrant space. Equal parts bar, mini resto and glorious sidewalk terrace, the venue features a variety of events, from DJ nights to live music. Since Desjardins is a roller derby badass with mighty skating skills, it’s no surprise that amidst 5 à 7s, the space will host some derby debauchery.
Life isn’t all glitter, fishnets and pints; Desjardins, who has experience in the non-profit sector, discusses playing with purpose. “I’m a big fan of partying for a reason. It brings some meaning to nightlife. We don’t have to forget about everything we stand for just because we’re dancing. We can fundraise as we party!” Patrons can expect some stellar fundraisers for organizations like Rock Camp for Girls and Stella.
If its riotous opening night was any indication, Royal Phoenix Bar is the new kid on the block that everyone wants to befriend. Fresh-faced and rife with potential, it stands to be a much needed, much loved addition to the neighbourhood.