Florence Gagnon, advocate of "Do it yourself" and "Let's make it happen"
Florence Gagnon, an extroverted queer woman of ideas and projects, entered the restaurant industry during the pandemic. Armed with all her artistic baggage, she joined the 100% female-identifying shareholders of L'idéal bar & contenus (formerly the Mme Lee club) in the Quartier des Spectacles. A graduate of Concordia's Faculty of Fine Arts, founder and cultural director of LSTW (Lez Spread the Word) magazine, co-creator and executive producer of the Féminin/Féminin series, Florence was the ideal person to take charge of the cultural side of the establishment. She is responsible for business development, marketing, and programming—shows, DJ sets, The Perfect Map podcast—featuring inspiring 2SLGBTQIA+ personalities.
Florence has been a community activist for over 10 years. With L'idéal, she continues her work to deconstruct traditional power relations and promote diversity. In what is first and foremost a natural wine bar, “the experience is enhanced through the enjoyment of good food and wine," she says.
The Village welcomed her when she came out at 19, and now it's her turn to offer a place to come together; a destination where you can be yourself and find a sense of belonging. "It's thanks to the restoration and joint efforts of young entrepreneurs, such as Mathieu Ménard (Bar Minéral) and Isabelle Corriveau (Le Renard, Le Tendresse), that the Village remains relevant," she adds.
While the Village is experiencing a bit of a revival, Mile-Ex has been home to a host of queer projects for several years. These include the much-missed Alexandraplatz and Fortune, Le Pick Up Dépanneur, and Brasserie Harricana, run by a lesbian couple. Florence collaborated with the brewery to create a special cuvee for Lez Spread the Word, which made it into the pages of Forbes magazine. Proof that working together can take us far!
Mathieu Ménard, entrepreneur and ambassador
Mathieu Ménard, a young intellectual, optimistic and epicurean entrepreneur, is a strong figure in the restaurant industry and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. His background in marketing-strategy and his involvement with the SDC Village Montréal for two years have allowed him to play his cards right since his entry into the bar and restaurant world. After launching the Blind Pig in Hochelaga, whose popularity has not waned in 8 years, Mathieu took over the reins of Waverly in the Mile End with his partners, with the goal of improving the offer. He also opened—in the middle of the pandemic—a little gem in the Village: Minéral.
All counters, no tables, with a decor that has charmed the most prestigious design magazines, "Minéral is not a gay bar, but an inclusive bar," says Mathieu. Otherwise, it would be a step backwards. "The old guard paid off, whereas here the community is no longer marginalized. We've gone beyond acceptance, and now we're into curiosity. The aim of the community is to be together, to be united," he argues.
However, according to him, there is still work to be done in terms of education and openness. We must continue to talk about it and educate people. Word spreads among shopkeepers in order to train their staff adequately. That is, to ensure and instill empathy.
Mathieu Menard leads by example by employing folks from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in his three establishments. "The gay community has a culture to share, colours to shine, and interesting conversations," he says. "In gay bars, you can dance without being bothered and be completely yourself."
Like the old bars in the Village, Minéral is a safe space to eat, drink, laugh and have fun, without worrying about anything. Plus, Minéral's programming during Pride promises to be electric. A perfect opportunity to come and leave it all on the dance floor!
To celebrate Montreal Pride festival, we asked four prominent figures from different eras of Montreal’s queer nightlife how clubs and bars helped our society evolve and paved the way for the acceptance and emancipation of LGBTQ2S+ communities.
Fierté Montréal pride festival organizes seven days of cultural and community activities to festively mark the achievements of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. To find out what the 2022 edition of Fierté Montréal holds in store for us, we spoke with the event’s general director, Simon Gamache.