Saturday, December 27, 2014

Coral Reef

Coral Reef
Coral Reef

Location: 30 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Canada

Opened: 1967-1968

Closed: 2000

From Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada:

The Coral Reef, however, was a main lesbian bar in Ottawa in the 1970s. A Caribbean club located on Sparks Street from 1962 to 1968, the Coral Reef became a gay and lesbian bar in 1968 when one of the owners, a lesbian, was convinced by a friend to open its doors to the gay community. According to Homer, an owner of the Coral Reef, the bar was a "gay bar" on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and a black/Latin club on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. When people who went to the Coral Reef from Thursday to Saturday became aware of its "gay nights," they stopped coming to the Reef. At this point, the switch in 1968 to a gay/lesbian bar every day of the week was complete, with regular drag shows. The sheer number of women attending on Thursday nights prompted Homer to mark Friday night as lesbian nights too.

When asked whether civil servants were among the people who held membership cards to the club (obligatory in the 1970s), Homer responded that most of the women worked for the government in some capacity, making a point to mention that in the 1970s coming down to the Coral Reef (twenty-one steps to the basement) was a risky trip for these civil servants.

There's also this description in a 2006 Daily Xtra article:

When the bar [Coral Reef] opened in the late 1960s, times were changing. Canadian society was loosening its restrictions. Then-justice minister -- and soon to be prime minister -- Pierre Elliott Trudeau was moving to decriminalize homosexuality. Peace, love, granola and Joni Mitchell and Neil Young were "in" and traditional Bible-thumping morality was going "out."

But even though the idea of tolerance was in the air, the reality was different: The Coral Reef Club was Ottawa's only gay bar. And initially, it was gay on Wednes-days only.

The Reef opened up in 1967. Located at 30 Nicholas Street, under Rideau Centre, it started off as a Caribbean club. But when it changed its Wednesday line-up to target gays, it became a hit and soon became exclusively a gay bar until its 2000 closing.

But even when it opened as a gay bar, the Coral Reef still treated its customers as second-class citizens. When the club deigned to allow gays entry on Wednesday nights, rules were tightly enforced against the community. Especially the drag performers.

There's also this from a 2013 blog post:

Rideau Centre Parking Garage
Not long after, in 1967, Ottawa got its first gay bar, the Coral Reef. In keeping with the necessarily furtive nature of the queer community at this time, the Coral Reef was challenging for the uninitiated to find: it was in the basement of a parking garage, behind an unmarked door.  While photos show an unassuming space, it was tremendously important and popular in its time, hosting extravagant drag shows that brought the queer community together.

The Canadian War on Queers also has this brief description of the Coral Reef:

THE CORAL REEF: The Coral Reef opened its doors in 1968 and closed them in 2000. Primarily a mixed queer bar, on Friday nights it catered exclusively to lesbians. The Coral Reef (affectionately known as the Oral Grief) was also famous for its drag shows. The Reef was in the basement of the Rideau Centre's parking garage at 30 Nicholas Street.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.