Local queer spaces (re)open their doors

Nightclubs return, new establishments emerge

Little Brown Jug created the Fruit Salad Queer Lounge as an event for 2SLGBTQIA+ Winnipeggers to gather in a mellower atmosphere than a nightclub.

(Photo by Callie Lugosi)

For several months, public-health restrictions compromised the existence of a handful of 2SLGBTQIA+ spaces in Winnipeg. Some chose to pivot virtually, while others were more or less forced to shut their doors indefinitely.

With Winnipeg’s nightlife scene slowly being brought back to life, many of its beloved queer clubs and spaces are beginning to reemerge.

On Oct. 29, Fame Nightclub, one of Winnipeg’s most popular 2SLGBTQIA+ clubs, reopened its doors at a new 110 Market Ave. location. The Halloween party that followed on Oct. 30 brought back drag queens Vida Lamour DeCosmo and Eva Nebula, as well as DJ Huffnpoof. Though the nightclub has moved from its 279 Garry St. location, its spirit remains intact.

Jennifer Watson, the club’s manager, says the response from attendees has been wonderful so far.

“We had great feedback,” Watson says. “It’s very important for us at Fame to reopen for the community and give people another space to come to.”

For many, the reopening of 2SLGBTQIA+ nightclubs like Fame and Club 200 provides a safer space for people to mingle, drink and dance. However, evening social spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ folks looking for an alternative to the intensity of a nightclub environment and drinking spaces are often few and far between in Winnipeg.

At Little Brown Jug, Kristin Sheffield, the head of corporate operations, noticed this lack. Though nightclubs remain a core way of bringing people together, there are a multitude of reasons why someone may want to refrain from environments with a heavy alcohol presence.

“We wanted to create something that would allow for a really chill vibe (and) a low-barrier event not focused on alcohol,” Sheffield says.

On Oct. 23, Little Brown Jug piloted its first Fruit Salad Queer Lounge. In its cozy warehouse space, tucked in on 366 William Ave., the event opened the floor to DJs Lucky Sharms and Kilusan.

While the brewery continues to offer a local selection of beer on tap, Sheffield says Little Brown Jug created a non-alcoholic cocktail to make the event more welcoming to folks in the community who aren’t interested in consuming alcohol.

“I got a lot of feedback from people just being like ‘oh, it’s great to come and do something that ends at 11,’” Sheffield says. “It’s about trying to create something that’s a bit more nuanced and definitely more accessible.”

Sheffield says she and the team at Little Brown Jug hope to host Fruit Salad Queer Lounge nights more regularly. She adds that those who are interested in attending can visit the event page on littlebrownjug.ca or follow their Facebook page for regular updates.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed the doors of many premier 2SLGBTQIA+ spaces in Winnipeg, it gave those like Watson time to ponder gaps in existing community offerings. As Fame reopens its doors, Watson says she hopes to get more involved with the community through fundraising events for organizations like Sunshine House.

“A lot of venues have (been) hurt, and there’s a lot of people who need more resources,” she says. “We just want to try and give back to the community.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 4, 2021)

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