isabelles toronto

New Toronto bar accused of homophobia and discrimination in viral video

A relatively new Toronto bar that received an influx of one-star reviews during its first few months in operation is now being accused of having homophobic and discriminatory policies.

Isabelle's is a cocktail bar in a chic, retro-feeling space above Belfast Love near King and Portland Streets, and is owned by the same controversial restaurant group as its downstairs neighbour.

Recently described by incensed patrons as over-crowded, overpriced, as having poor security measures (and bad service), and as catering to douchey King West types, the bar has a pretty bad Google rating that is now getting worse after one customer described their horrible experience at the establishment this month.

The clubgoer took to TikTok to share how he was not allowed in the space with his small purse, despite the fact that friend he was with was permitted to bring hers in.

"I went to a club last night in downtown Toronto called Isabelle's and they have a dress code or 'style guide' for men and for women, as if this is 1949," the user, who identifies himself as queer, says in the nearly 10-minute long video.

He details how after paying his $20 cover he was stopped by security and told that he needed to check his very small, single-compartment purse because men are not permitted to carry in bags.

Even after he moved the few items from his bag into his friend's, he was still informed that he would have to check the empty satchel, which he shows in the video is only about the length of a hand.

@cabbagerollbaby ISABELLE’S NIGHT CLUB, KING ST W TORONTO ON — DISCRIMINATES AGAINST QUEER PEOPLE: As a gay queer person living in a city as diverse and progressive as Toronto, I typically don’t think twice about facing discrimination for how I present myself— until last night, when I joined some friends to check out a new club called ISABELLE’S. I was quickly made aware that my queerness was unacceptable, and not allowed at Isabelle’s. #toronto #nightlife #queer #discrimination ♬ original sound - Rat Boy

"Instead of respecting me and being nice to me as a paying customer, I was treated like an inconvenient idiot because I had a tiny purse [when] I physically appear as a male," he continues, adding that the bar's style guide permits casualwear like sneakers and ball caps for men, but that purses are apparently "much too gay" for it.

"I'm trying to understand how an establishment not only ends up humiliating somebody who just paid money to them, but actively does it on purpose. You tried to make me feel stupid and put me down because I had an empty tiny bag on my shoulder and because I am a male."

The video has racked up more than 22k views, 1,600+ likes and hundreds of comments, with many saying they are shocked and infuriated about the incident.

A few added they have had the same experience at the bar and others in the neighbourhood, too — one man said he and a friend were denied entry to nearby Baro for wearing crop tops when many women at the restaurant were as well — and some noted that they'd left a bad review for the business after hearing such stories.

As one person wrote, "This is horrible but also so unsurprising. King Street bars as a whole are very hetero/binary coded, unfortunately."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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