Fredericton gains new space for LGTBQ community
'I need everybody to have a home, and home isn't necessarily where you live'
The LGBTQ community in Fredericton will soon have a new place to call home after a nightclub in the city closed a little over a month ago.
Diane Wilson, also known as "Queer Mama" to Fredericton's LGBTQ community, was a regular at Boom! Nightclub. She decided to lease the space when she heard about the nightclub's closure in late June.
"That was the place where I could go and I could be who I was, and everyone accepted me," Wilson said, adding her husband and kids are loving and supportive, but not everyone is so lucky.
"If that space is important to me, how much more important was it to somebody whose family doesn't support them?"
Boom! Nightclub was a staple of the LGBTQ community for 15 years, but closed permanently because of losses caused by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Wilson has been an ally to the LGBTQ community for years and has assisted organizers with a Pride parade in Fredericton.
"I need everybody to have a home, and home isn't necessarily where you live. Home is where you can be you," she said.
Wilson is leasing the building for $3,700 per month. The new space will be called Monarch because it's a "place of rebirth and coming into oneself," Wilson said.
Monarch will be a community centre by day and a bar by night.
Alcohol will only be available at night. After consulting the LGBTQ community, Wilson said people were eager to have an alcohol-free space they could go to during the day.
"It's more work, but I think it's important that the youth in the community also have a safe place to go, too," Wilson said.
The community centre will offer classes like Drag 101, where people can learn how to put on makeup for drag performances, and sexual education classes. Monarch will also hold all-ages dances and all-ages So You Think You Can Drag events.
For now, Monarch will turn into a lounge in the evenings. Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it will transform into a bar and dance club at night.
Wilson has been inside the former Boom! building several times since it closed.
She said she plans to change the layout and add frosted windows. The exterior walls will also be painted and a new sign installed.
Monarch's staff will be trained in mental health first aid and will have to take a safe space training run by the University of New Brunswick's 203 Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.
"I want my staff to be the best-trained staff in Fredericton, so that when people come into our space they know that everybody that works there is trained to help them in any way that they need."
Wilson is hoping to open Monarch on Oct. 1, but she said renovating may take longer than that.
"I really look forward to opening the space and seeing people walk through the door and feeling welcomed and feeling loved."