lipstick and dynamite toronto

Regular at beloved Toronto dive bar raises more than $9k to try to save it from closing

Lipstick & Dynamite, a favourite queer dive bar that's been a fixture of the Queen West community for seven years, is at risk of closing its doors for good.

Ashley Stevens, a west-end resident and frequenter of the bar since 2019, is trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

"As non-binary, it's really hard to find spaces, especially safe spaces, in the city," Stevens told blogTO.

"A lot of the time in the queer community, our friends are our families. In a lot of circumstances, you're sort of kicked out from your family and you're looking for that home feel. And this is where you'll find it."

With the owner, Celeste Torpedo, unable to pay rent for the bar after a year of lockdown orders, Stevens has started a GoFundMe to ask for help from the community.

"The landlord has been patient and understanding during lockdown but also did not foresee the length this has lasted, and everyone involved is tapped out of resources," Stevens said.

"Independent businesses are the ones that are struggling and these spaces could be taken over by big corporations that aren’t being hit with anything. We don't want a Tim Hortons to take it over."

Torpedo says living with the fear that she could lose the bar that she poured everything into has taken its toll this past year. 

"I get messages every day from folks asking when we'll be open again. They make me cry every time. It's really hard not knowing if or when we'll be back, and not having any answers for anyone," she told blogTO.

"We built it from the bottom up into what it is today and it's beyond heartbreaking to think that it could just disappear forever." 

The fundraiser has already raised over $9,000 from others who share in the love for the local watering hole.

"It feels like a genuine ray of light. It's so sweet and beautiful seeing how important our bar is to the people who love it," Torpedo said. 

"More than anything, I want to save it, and my staff and I are so excited for the day we can safely reopen and see all our customers in person again." 

Like many others in the city, Stevens can't wait until she can return to the bar near Queen and Ossington where on any given night, live music can be heard, board games can be played and connections can be had.

"Seemingly in perpetual Halloween, this big, beautiful space with eclectic music, cold drinks, and great people has come to be a staple for locals and visitors," they said.

"The friends and connections that I've made through there have been astoundingly deep and it'd be an upset to a very important community to see it go."

Lead photo by

Rick Miller

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