crews and tangos

One of Toronto's most famous bars says it needs help to survive

It's been an understandably tough year for all types of businesses all over Toronto, including Crews and Tangos, the lauded drag bar that has served as a community hub for decades and that is the latest to ask for the public's help.

It was back in early March that the city found out it might be losing the iconic bar and performance venue to make way for condos, in typical T.O. style, which roused tens of thousands of fans into action to petiton against the forthcoming mixed-use project.

It appeared by mid-month that developer Graywood was indeed listening to residents and, though not completely nixing its planned condo tower, was "exploring a joint plan aimed at maintaining a presence for Crews & Tangos" within it.

It is still somewhat unclear how exactly Crews will be incorporated into the new 15-storey residential complex at Church and Maitland, and with its fate seeming a little up in the air and construction potentially starting as soon as Feburary 2021, some are confused about the owner's recent calls for financial support.

"To our dearest chosen family, we are here to humbly ask for your support during our greatest time of need. We have felt the heavy pressures of 2020 and it has taken its toll on everyone," Michael Ramawad, the owner of the Church-Wellesley staple, said via a GoFundMe campaign launched this past weekend.

"We have many brilliant performers with a variety of styles and backgrounds, which we would love to continue to host, build and help grow in their careers. The same applies to the dedicated behind the scenes staff, your favourite bartenders, and our talented DJs. All of us at Crews & Tangos are grateful for your patronage and cannot wait to see your beautiful faces once more!"

The fundraiser has managed to raise nearly $17,000 in just two days, with hundreds of supporters jumping in to note the cultural significance of the space and how crucial it is to LGBTQ+ people from home and abroad.

But, some have been asking fair questions about the plea given that basically all events in 2020 have been and will continue to be a no-go, that the city's stringent pandemic lockdown under which bars are shuttered for in-person service will remain in place for at least another three weeks, and that the three-floor blue-painted building may be a construction site in just a few months.

"I love Crews and Tangos but seriously what is this for if everyone knows its getting turned into condos in 2021?" one user commented on Crews' Instagram post sharing the campaign.

"Not being shady just genuinely curious, didn’t you guys sell to a condo developer and your lease is up in February? Is the money going to the staff and performers ?" another asked, to which yet another responded "Just address this in the open @crewsandtangos! You’re asking the community for help, so who are we helping? Where is the money going?" 

Though not every question was answered, the official Crews account did inform one commenter that donations would be going to "rent, staff, hydro and other bills."

"For two months?" someone replied.

One user went as far as noting that "Crews does not need your help. They sold this property to a condo developer and their lease is up in 2021. Not only this but they are refusing to engage in questions surrounding where exactly this money is going considering the expected closure of their business."

crews and tangos

The latest renderings for how the landmark Crews & Tangos will be encompassed into the new development. Image from Graywood Developments and Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Though there are few details on the Graywood project as of yet, renderings from the official plan and zoning bylaw amendement applications submitted in August show that the street-facing portions of the the drag bar will be kept while the modern, modular-looking tower takes up half the block behind and beside it, including an adjacent parking lot and the neighbouring cocktail lounge Boutique Bar.

And, Graywood did extend Crews & Tangos's lease for two years back in March.

Fans will have to wait until the current grey zone lockdown restrictions are reassessed later in December to find out how soon they might be able to visit the heritage spot before work starts.

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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