Saskatoon bar owners eye Saskatchewan's first gay district

Rainbow banners put up by the owner of a gay nightclub in Saskatoon are causing confusion over whether they represent Saskatchewan's first gay district or not.

Rainbow banners put up for Saskatoon Pride next week

Pink Lounge and Nightclub owner Skipp Anderson stands in front of his establishment after putting up rainbow banners. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Rainbow banners put up by the owner of a gay nightclub in Saskatoon are causing confusion over whether they represent Saskatchewan's first gay district or not. 

The banners were purchased by Pink Lounge and Nightclub owner Skipp Anderson after getting city approval before Saskatoon Pride takes place in the city next week.

The rainbow banners, which were put up last Sunday, cover two city blocks on 24th Street, just east of Idylwyld Drive. 

"The gay community has always wanted," said Anderson. "They wanted that visible symbol, especially during pride."

There was some controversy though over the banners. There were claims by people associated with the club that the banners now represented the province's first gay district.

City Councillor Darren Hill says that's incorrect.

"I was happy to see the banners because I thought it was a great addition to the upcoming pride festivities, but I was surprised that people were claiming that it was a newly established and city-approved gay district in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan," said Hill.

Rainbow banners on 24th Street in Saskatoon. (Devin Heroux/CBC)
Hill said Pink did go through the proper city policy to be able to put up the banners but says there are bigger questions when it comes to naming an area a gay district.

"Our administration recognized the symbol and what it would mean to the festivities coming up," said Hill. "However, I don't think they truly understood what happens in larger municipalities that do have gay districts which are always identified by the rainbow flag or banner throughout the entire district."

Hill said one nightclub should not establish a gay district and that they were established many years ago for a safe haven or an area for people to feel comfortable in. He adds it's an important conversation in the city right now and said he's helping employees at Saskatoon's other gay nightclub, Divas, apply for the same banner application to put rainbow flags up downtown. 

Divas general manager Aaron Paetsch said he will put forward an application to have rainbow banners on 3rd Avenue for Saskatoon Pride.

"We're also kicking off Pride Week by flying Canada's largest pride flag," said Paetsch.
Rainbow banners hang outside Pink Lounge and Nightclub. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Gay district in Saskatoon?

Anderson believes the city should have a gay district and would love to see it established on the same two blocks the rainbow banners hang right now. 

I know that as a youth when I saw a rainbow I knew that I was safe.- Rachel Loewen Walker, executive director of OUT Saskatoon

"The biggest thing we want is for people to feel safe and be proud of who they are."

Hill said he doesn't think there's a need for a gay district in Saskatoon. 

Rachel Loewen Walker, executive director of OUT Saskatoon, doesn't believe a gay district is in Saskatoon's future, but said visibility is crucial to moving forward as a city.

"The rainbow as a symbol for the queer community and pride has reached across the world," said Loewen Walker.

"I know that as a youth when I saw a rainbow I knew that I was safe."

Rainbow banners hang in Saskatoon. (Devin Heroux/CBC)
Loewen Walker points directly to experiences in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

"There's just a thrill walking down the street seeing the rainbow flags. Knowing that you're surrounding by businesses that are queer friendly. It doesn't get much better than that."

Loewen Walker teaches a course at the University of Saskatchewan called Queering the Terrain. The course focuses on understanding local and global LGBT communities and how space and geography have an impact on our identities.

"I think Saskatoon is a city that is starting to value diversity and gender and sexuality," said Loewen Walker. "I think we still have a long way to go in Saskatoon."

Loewen Walker said she believes there is still a need for rainbow flags and banners in Saskatoon.

"The ideal would be that every single square inch in Saskatoon is queer friendly."


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.


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