Nova Scotia

'A second home': Halifax's only dedicated LGBTQ bar closes for good

Menz and Mollyz, described as Halifax’s only dedicated LGBTQ bar and one of the few safe spaces for the community, is closing permanently.

'It leaves a huge gap in our community,' says drag queen Rouge Fatale

Burlesque performer Kay Licious performs at Menz and Mollyz. She said the bar became a home for burlesque performers. (Submitted by Jessica Judge)

Menz and Mollyz, described as Halifax's only dedicated LGBTQ bar and one of the few safe spaces for the community, is closing permanently.

The bar and performance venue on Gottingen Street made the announcement Monday on its Facebook page, prompting an outpouring of messages from people expressing sadness.

Adam Reid, executive director of Halifax Pride, said the community is grieving.

He said Menz and Mollyz Bar was not just a watering hole — it was a place where people held meetings, memorials, birthday parties, protests, fundraisers and cultural gatherings.

"I think what people might not understand is that the loss of a gay bar means so much more than just the loss of an establishment," Reid said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"I think we're still just very shook up by the news and starting to comprehend what this means for the folks who have relied on it as a community hub and a safe space where we can gather."

Last month, Premier Stephen McNeil ordered all bars in the province to shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's not clear what prompted Menz and Mollyz to close for good. Owner David Landry did not respond to a request for an interview Tuesday.

The multi-stage venue regularly hosted a range of events including drag, burlesque and comedy shows, up-and-coming bands, poetry readings and DJ sets.

Jason Spurrell, also known as drag queen Rouge Fatale, has been performing at Menz and Mollyz since it opened 15 years ago, and also used to work at the bar.

Menz and Mollyz announced on its Facebook page Monday that it was closing permanently. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Spurrell said he is heartbroken. He said it was one of few safe spaces in Halifax for the LGBTQ community, "and now we don't have anything, really."

"It was like a second home. You knew you didn't have to worry. It was a place that we could all go," said Spurrell. "It leaves a huge gap in our community."

Spurrell said the closure is particularly hard to cope with given the current state of emergency and the inability for the community to gather.

"I just wish we all knew it was the last time we were going to dance there," he said, adding that he hopes another dedicated LGBTQ bar opens in Halifax in the future.

"If it wasn't for this damn virus, we would have given her a proper sendoff, and now unfortunately she just sort of goes to sleep."

From left, Tim Humphrey, Jason Spurrell and Brad McRae, also known as the Queens of the Glamazon, perform on stage at Menz and Mollyz. (Submitted by Brad McRae)

Brad McRae, also known as drag queen Farrah Moanz, said Menz was also a part of many people's personal "coming out" stories.

"Going out to a queer space like Menz bar helps a lot of people kind of get along on that journey and discover themselves," said McRae.

He said it was also an important venue for drag queens and other LGBTQ acts, as it was affordable, welcoming, and there was already a "built-in audience."

For burlesque performer Kay Licious, Menz and Mollyz was where you could go see acts that were "weird and wonderful."

She said she started doing shows there in 2011 and it quickly became a home for burlesque performers, who often performed in drag shows before burlesque became more popular.

Many in the LGBTQ community say Menz and Mollyz was one of the few safe gathering spaces in Halifax. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"A lot of the current performers got their start on that Menz bar stage, and maybe wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't for that bar," she said. "It was where people could become a performer and hone their style."

Unrelated to the closure, Halifax Pride is encouraging people to display rainbow flags outside their homes this weekend as a sign of solidarity and community during the pandemic.

It's also to remember prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel, who died after a brutal beating outside of Menz bar in April 2012.

"Now more than ever people need to know they're supported and that the community continues," said Reid. "We will persist."