Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chez Madame Arthur

2170 Rue Bishop today
Chez Madame Arthur

Location: 2170 Bishop Street, Montreal, Canada

Opened: 1971

Closed: 1975

I found the first reference to Chez Madame Arthur in an article by Julie A. Podmore called "Gone 'underground'? Lesbian visibility and the consolidation of queer space in Montreal." It is an interesting piece, though written in a somewhat dense, academic style. I am reproducing what Podmore said about Chez Madame Arthur below, though without all the citation data.

In 1978, Marie-Claire Blais published Les nuits de l'Underground [Nights in the Underground], a novel that described the night world of Montreal lesbian bars in the 1970s. Much of the story was set in 'The Underground,' a fictitious bar widely believed to be Chez Madame Arthur, a bar that was located on Bishop Street from 1971 to 1975. This 1970s location represents an important shift in both the lesbian and gay geographies of Montreal. Chez Madame Arthur was part of a small cluster of bars serving a lesbian clientele that developed to the west of the established gay district on Stanley Street after 1968. Between 1968 and 1981 there were six lesbian bars located in this area, including Chez Madame Arthur, Chez Jilly's and Chez Babyface.

Podmore goes on to observe that all these lesbian bars were somewhat dispersed from one another in location, and were largely located outside the larger gay male district.

There is also a discussion of a 1974 boycott of Chez Madame Arthur over harassment by the male bar staff and owners.

Then there is this discussion of Chez Madame Arthur in Gay Studies from the French Cultures:

In the 1970s, lesbian bars opened in various parts of the city [i.e. Montreal]. The early years of the decade were a transitional period. One popular bar of the time, Chez Madame Arthur, benefitted from a convergence of favorable conditions: police surveillance was at a minimum, the feminist and gay movements were in full swing and a number of regular customers were developing a collective sense of lesbian identity. In terms of age, ethnic origin and social status, the club attracted a more varied clientele than its predecessors.

To find out more about the 1974 boycott, see here, though the translation from the French is rather awkward.

Saturday, January 11, 2014



Location: 3090 Downing Street, Denver, Colorado, USA

Opened: August 2011

Closed: 2013

Like any new establishment, Eden opened with great hopes. Here's the August 2011 birth announcement from Denver Westword:

Eden is the latest revamp of the capacious space at 3090 Downing Street that previously held Swallows, Blackberries Bar and Tosh's Hacienda, among others. Opened by the folks behind Tracks, who now own the building, Eden is designed as a lesbian bar.

"We appreciate the spectrum, of course," says general manager Brittany Joseph. "We're a women's bar, but we are a garden and celebrate all flowers that are blooming."

After telling us all about the great vegetarian food, we're provided with the following description of the premises:

The club, which is housed in what was once a church, covers three floors and has two patios, both sporting lime green walls painted with leaf-like designs -- the garden of Eden. The large foyer is covered with artwork you can purchase by local artists. The main room has a coin-operated pool table and flatscreen televisions playing such music videos as Madonna's "Material Girl" and Abba's "Dancing Queen." Beyond the music videos, entertainment includes DJs and burlesque shows, depending on the night.

But uh oh. We already see signs of trouble in paradise. Note this observation:

This address has had a rough run; here's hoping Eden keeps blooming.

In February 2012, Kathleen St. John at the Denver Post gave Eden a good review. Here is a portion:

Eden calls itself a "bar and cuisine lounge," but that's really just the front room.

The multilevel, multipurpose building offers a lot more than meets the eye. From performance space to party rooms, Eden aims to please.

An open iron gate in Eden's leaf-green, Southwestern-style facade welcomes visitors into a spacious entryway/art gallery. A trail of flickering electronic candles guides the way upstairs to the main bar and lounge.

The bar feels like someone's living room, cozy and carpeted, with Asian d├ęcor details. Four-top tables, covered in real tableclothes, take up most of the space, though the drinking clientele hovers around the bar. Eden cultivates a following in Denver's lesbian community but takes care to remain inclusive. The staff does a good job of it, too — the vibe is relaxed and welcoming.

After praise for the vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free menu ("pho rolls" and quinoa sliders) and drink specials, the description of Eden continues thus:

The bar extends into a dimmer, more intimate anteroom to the rentable party space next door. The party room is actually in the building attached behind Eden, the Exdo Annex. Dotted with couches and outfitted with its own bar, the lofted room overlooks Eden's dance floor.

Up another flight of stairs (Eden's a bit of a labyrinth) is a room with a small stage in the corner, plus another bar, plenty of tables and seating. On a recent visit, the Lady D Industries burlesque troupe was setting up for a Wild West extravaganza.

Despite the lack of focus and clear-cut definition, Eden doesn't feel scattershot. Its greatest strength is its versatility. Want to see a show? Have dinner? Drink and dance? All of the above? You're in the right place.

Denver Westword gave Eden the Best Lesbian Bar Award in 2013--a category for which, admittedly, there is little competition:

Eden is a garden of lesbian delights. Thanks to a diverse menu of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, Eden is as green-friendly on the inside as the grass-colored building is on the outside. But it's the after-dinner fare that makes Eden a standout on the nightlife scene: In addition to regularly supporting the women of Denver with events dedicated to roller derby, women in slam poetry, female fundraisers, International Women's Day and the like, the restaurant also offers fun, one-night-only events that cater to the double-X-chromosomed. Did you miss the Lady Gaga tour documentary on HBO? Eden's got a bad romance with the singer. You might also encounter diva-centric dance jams, sapphic sirens burlesque, yoga over brunch, or your favorite lesbian reality star.

Here are the comments from a site called WeGoOut:

eden has become a favorite neighborhood hangout and won the Best Lesbian Bar in Denver from OutFront Colorado. The leafy green building is hard to miss, just 1 block at the north end of the Light Rail D line. However, the paint isn’t the only thing that’s different here. eden is a cozy retreat for people from all walks of life as well as the creative and health conscious members of the neighborhood. Step up to our bar and you will discover that this is more than just a place to get a beer.

There are 49 customer reviews at Yelp, nearly all of which were quite positive about the menu. There is almost no mention of this being a lesbian place however. To be exact, there was one mention from Shanna K. in May 2013:

Designed as a lesbian bar, successful as a restaurant, events center, community meeting space and neighborhood watering hole, Eden does it all for everyone. Did I mention the free wifi and epic patio area? Or the weekend dance parties? Plus, an off street lot. It just doesn't get any better!

At Foursquare, there are 15 customer reviews, most of which are good as well. Here's one from May 2012:

A woman’s bar for everyone, with great drink specials, outdoor patio and fantastic vegetarian food. Located 1 block from the Downing St. lightrail.

So what happened? It's not real clear, but both yelp and Denver Westword report that Eden is now closed.

So I presume that Eden blooms no more...

Saturday, January 4, 2014


The former Labyrus, now Lockerbie Pub

Location: 631 East Michigan Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Opened: 1978

Closed: ?

The only reference to Labyrus I have found is in an Indy Star article from December 2013. The article is called "The Strange But True History of Indianapolis' Gay Bars," but true to the genre, the article has very little to say about lesbian places. In fact, Labyrus is the only lesbian bar mentioned.

So what are we told about Labyrus? Well for starters, it was founded by a lesbian named Mary Byrne, who had been active in the protests against Anita Bryant's appearance in Indiana in October 1977:

Mary Byrne, once she acknowledged her sexuality, moved swiftly. She joined a women's rugby team, bought a country-and-western bar at 631 E. Michigan St. and converted it to a lesbian bar. This was in 1978. She named the place Labyrus, and booked numerous female musicians. It wasn't disco, it was feminist -- folksy, blue grass and some jazz: Meg Christian, Teresa Trull, Holly Near. "Fifty concerts a year," said Byrne. "It was the heyday of women's music."

And that's about it, except for one gay man complaining that he was once refused service at Labyrus.