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3 proudly inclusive spots to discover

Véronique Lacoursière and friends hanging out at BOLT Café

Interviews

3 proudly inclusive spots to discover

Long gone are the days when our differences were only celebrated in big cities. As pride flags are flown across the metropolis to celebrate Montréal Pride, we chatted with three members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community who’ve chosen to open businesses beyond the city limits. They shared their thoughts about inclusion and the in-roads made so far.

Published on July 28, 2023

David Côté, owner of La Diversité ‒ Bar LGBTQ+, in Trois-Rivières

“I’d dreamed of owning a bar since I was 20 years old!” said David Côté. Thanks to him, a few months ago Trois-Rivières got its first 2SLGBTQIA+ establishment: La Diversité. The 31-year-old Trois-Rivières resident, who began his career in business administration, recalls driving several hours to visit gay clubs in the Montreal Village or Quebec City. He freely admits he was inspired by his favourite establishments to create this bar that, on certain nights, transforms into a drag cabaret (with programming by vivacious hosts Narcissa Wolfe and Eva Moist), a coffeehouse, a karaoke bar, a dance floor, and soon even a bingo hall! 

“We need this type of space to get together without judgment, whether you’re gay, lesbian, trans, or straight. Sure, we can find one another on social media, but it’s nice to meet in person, too,” said David, who points out that half his customers are heterosexual. “I called my bar La Diversité because I wanted it to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome. People feel at home here, and that’s why they keep coming back.” 

David Côté

In fact, his patrons come from as far away as Victoriaville and Drummondville, especially since Sherbrooke’s Otre Zone (the only other 2SLGBTQIA+ bar beyond city centres) closed in December—not to mention the folks from Montreal and Quebec City who make the trek to see Barbada, Lady Boom Boom, and other popular performers.

Jean-Benoit Hinse, sommelier and co-owner of Le Roux, in Bromont

Jean-Benoit Hinse

A veteran of the restaurant industry, Jean-Benoit Hinse began his career in 2000 at the legendary Sky bar, having just left Quebec City for Montreal. “It was a golden era in The Village, with its clubs and after-hours bars. They weren’t just nightclubs, but cruising spots,” recalled the 44-year-old sommelier. According to him, dating apps changed everything. He mentions the Royal Phoenix, which opened a decade ago in Mile End and ushered in a new generation of “more inclusive” bars that brought the community together without defining themselves as gay establishments.

Today, Jean-Benoit lives in Bromont and to him, the era of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community only being able to flourish in big cities seems like a long time ago. When Jean-Benoit and his partner Michel Bérubé began thinking up a concept for a wine bar, the notion of promoting it as an 2SLGBTQIA+ establishment didn’t even cross their minds. “We wanted it to be inclusive,” said the former co-owner of Chaud Lapin, who’s also a former sommelier at Maison Boulud and Auberge Saint-Gabriel. Just recently opened, Le Roux is certainly inviting, with a menu featuring local products, an impressive wine list, a large patio with gas heaters and pétanque court, and, above all, a breathtaking view. As an anecdote, Jean-Benoit tells us how the straight men he interviews like to wear pearl necklaces and nail polish, just like Jay Du Temple. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a single generation!”

Véronique Lacoursière, co-owner of Bolt Café, in Knowlton

Véronique Lacoursière is among a wave of urbanites who moved to the countryside during the pandemic. “I sold everything I owned in Montreal and moved into a cabin near Eastman,” said the 31-year-old outdoor enthusiast, whose background is in advertising. The same sort of impulse led her to create BOLT Café in Knowlton. “I’d never made a latte in my life!” Her leap of faith paid off, because customers now go out of their way to grab a coffee or a glass of wine at her café. What’s next? A boutique hotel she plans to open in summer 2024 with girlfriend Florence Pelland-Goyer, co-owner of Buvette chez Simone and Bar à flot. “We’ve found a spot in Sutton, a small place with six bedrooms, on the banks of a stream. We plan to have the area’s best selection of Burgundies!”

Véronique also didn’t feel the need to “make a statement.” She mentioned that a lesbian couple pointed out that many members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are already regulars at her café.

“I think it’s because of the vibe. Our approach is more inclusive than other places. For some, that’s more important than having a place of belonging.” In her opinion, it’s a generational thing—young people today don’t like to be labelled and “might be with a girl one day, a guy the next.” That said, she’s delighted that people from the queer community are moving to the area, working on farms or starting agricultural projects. “When we organize dinners, people come from all over. It’s really welcoming and inclusive!”

Véronique Lacoursière

Our favourite 2SLGBTQIA+ (openly or not!) spots in Montreal

The SAQ is a proud partner of Montréal Pride. We invite you to check out the full Montréal Pride program.

 

Note: 2SLGBTQIA+ is the recognized acronym refering to various sexual orientations and gender identities. 2S: recognizes Two-Spirit; L: Lesbian; G: Gay; B: Bisexual; T: Transgender; Q: Queer; I: Intersex, considers sex characteristics beyond sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; A: asexual, +: is inclusive of people who identify as part of sexual and gender diverse communities, who use additional terminologies.

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