My last night at Gio’s

Remembering Gio’s Smith Street location

The first time I walked into Gio’s I looked out onto the dance floor and freaked when I saw a naked man dancing around. It was my 19th birthday, and at that point, Gio’s offered live male entertainment a few times a week.

Running into the washroom, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d been to a gay bar before, but had never been exposed to that much flesh.

After calming my nerves, I walked out of the washroom and looked at my surroundings: a dimly lit drinking area to my left, with scattered tables and chairs on one side, a fully stocked bar on the other, and a piano that sat on a raised surface in the far corner by the ATM machine.

A wall stood to my right and housed the entrance of the DJ booth, the cigarette machine - which hardly ever worked - and a corked message board that highlighted upcoming events in the community.

Looking out past the wall was the dance floor, which I had previously fled from. I fell in love with the space. The entertainer had finished and spoke to a patron with a towel wrapped loosely around his waist, so I moved in closer to the dance floor.

The stage had railings surrounding it, tables rounded both ends of the dance floor and on either side of the patio door.

The space just felt like home.

There was history and community in this space and I felt like I was finally a part of it, and I loved it.

Gio’s is where I began courting my first serious girlfriend, where I met up and spent time with my friends, where I got my heart broken more than once, how I chose where I wanted my first apartment to be and where I fell for the true love of my life.

Gio’s is more than a bar for the LGBT community, it is a place of education about our ever growing community, it is a place of mourning for those that we have lost, it is a place of celebration for everything that we have been able to gain over the years, but most importantly, it is a place of friendship.

I felt that same feeling on Saturday, Feb. 16. As my partner and I entered Gio’s on Smith for the last time, I felt a sense of pride for being a part of this community.

I saw the amount of people that were there for this space, our space, and could almost feel the sense of community oozing out of its pores.

Yet at the same time I couldn’t help but wonder where many of these people were when Gio’s had first announced its financial distress. I also wondered if I had done enough to help save this community space, and the answer was no, I hadn’t.

Nevertheless, I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and I have to hope that Gio’s will rise again and that it will live on for another 30-odd years or more in a different location.

I have so many both bad and good memories of my time in that space and I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.

I will always be grateful for the time I spent there, and I look forward to making many new memories in their new location.

TL McMinn is a LGBTTQ Educator at the Rainbow Resource Centre.

Published in Volume 67, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 21, 2013)

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