Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Founded in 1972, Le Mystique, Montreal's oldest gay bar to close its doors

Gay bars for decades have been pivotal in the development of safe places for members of the gay community to congregate. Le Mystique, Montreal's oldest gay bar, will close after 37 years and with it a piece of history will be gone. Montreal, like many cities in North America slowly developed it's own distinct gay community, as Andrea Zanin notes in her article, The Village Comes Out: A Quick History:

Montreal is renowned worldwide for being a gay-friendly place. With our vibrant cultural scene, scintillating nightlife and beautiful people, it’s no wonder!Not to mention that our cosmopolitan city is crowned with the biggest Gay Village in North America. But it hasn’t always been this way. Montreal’s queer community has developed over the years through protests and politics, parties and parades. And as economic and social realities have shifted, so have the places we gather. In the 1920s, gay people began to congregate in Montreal’s downtown establishments, centred around the corner of Stanley and St.-Catherine streets in the west. For decades, this area remained the epicentre of gay life—through the Second World War and into the late 1970s.

It's always a little sad to see a gay establishment close it's doors. In a new article, Montreal's oldest gay bar to close its doors, writer Matthew Hays interviews Le Mystique manager, Steven Wells, about the closing and Le Mystique's historical significance. Wells speaks for many when he says, "... we are greatly saddened by this... our regulars are disheartened to know the place won't be around."

Matthew Hays elaborates:

Quebec's gay historians say Mystique is hallowed ground, a crucial spot in the city's queer evolution. Ross Higgins, co-founder of the Quebec Gay Archives, points to Mystique's spot in a key moment of social change for Montreal's queer citizens. In the wee hours of Oct 21, 1977, police raided several of the gay bars on Stanley, including Truxx and Le Mystique. The police used ludicrously heavy-handed tactics, arriving with guns drawn, arresting 146 gay men on spurious charges. It is now thought that, beyond homophobia (which obviously played a part), it was part of the municipal government's plan to continue to harass the city's gay milieu and the businesses that served them, effectively pushing them away from the downtown core and further east. Since most of the arrests happened at Truxx, the night has since become known as the Truxx Raids.

Read the full article Montreal's oldest gay bar to close its doors at