Club 338, Kingston’s newest queer bar is opening soon. As the name suggests, it will be located at 338 Princess St.
While there’s no set opening date for Club 338, members of the Kingston community gathered at Royal Tavern 2.0 on June 1 for an open stage drag show to celebrate the successful coming along of the bar’s construction.
“The drag show at Royal Tavern 2.0 was part of a soft launch opening of Club 338. It was not at the actual bar,” said Tyffanie Morgan, a long-time Kingston drag queen. “Nonetheless, there was a lot of support from the community at the event.”
According to Morgan, there has been an increasing demand by the queer community for a “hub” in Kingston—a place locals can frequent and feel accepted regardless of their sexuality.
“Having our own dedicated queer space is needed right now, especially in a world where we’re seeing a lot of backlashes against queer identities, trans identities, and gay pride,” Morgan said.
Morgan reminisced on the days she was able to pop into Club 477—Kingston’s previous gay bar—to see events and socialize with friends.
Club 338 will have a similar layout to Club 477, which had a prominent dance floor and a stage for drag shows and open mics, Morgan explained.
The owner of Club 338, drag queen Bekka Blake, did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment in time for publication.
What was once a place for drinking and dancing is now the location of Trek Bicycle Kingston. The building at 477 Princess Street was Club 477 in its previous life, which closed its doors for good in the late ’90s due to a lack of interest, and homophobia in Kingston. Attendees of Club 477 reported constant heckling, and some fell victim to hate-based assault.
Keith Bilow, the founder of Beers for Queers and a long-time attendee of the queer nightlife scene in Kingston, recalled a time he visited Club 477. The night took an alarming turn when a man with a baseball bat tucked underneath his coat sat down at the bar.
“However, [since the closure of Club 477] there have been weekly LGBTQ+ events in Kingston,” Bilow said. “There are [queer events] everywhere.”
To Bilow, community support for queer people in Kingston does not extend to the Queen’s student community. Bilow recalled zero Queen’s students attended an event he hosted near Stages Nightclub, despite advertising to the student body.
“[Queen’s] students bring their prejudices from wherever they come from and are often not educated on queer issues,” Bilow said.
To protect patrons, Bilow emphasized the importance of having good security at Club 338. Support for the queer community in Kingston has grown since the closure of Club 477 and other gay bars such as Wally’s, Shay Foo Foo’s, and The Office, Bilow expressed.
The Office was Kingston’s first official gay bar. The bar opened in the early ’80s, tucked away in the upstairs section of a building on the corner of Montreal and Queen Street.
The bar closed its doors in 1989. The Plaza, a strip club which has since been re-named Suits, is currently located in that same building.
While Bilow has his concerns, he’s looking forward to having a queer venue in Kingston. Having lived through the opening and closing of multiple queer bars, Bilow is hoping Club 338 sticks around for the foreseeable future.
“I want a place where people can walk through the doors of the bar, know they are entering a queer space, and be comfortable with that.”
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