crews and tangos

Toronto rallies to save Crews & Tangos from becoming a condo

In the wake of the shocking news that legendary Church-Wellesley institution Crews & Tangos is slated for development into a condo complex within the next few years, Toronto has come together to try and save the popular drag bar.

An online petition against the forthcoming construction project has garnered more than 17,000 signatures in just two days, with that number growing by the minute.

The petition's creator points out that Crews & Tangos won't be the only venue lost to the residential tower — adjacent cocktail lounge Boutique Bar and a parking lot often used as a location for events during Pride Toronto will also be demolished.

"Three queer spaces taken for one condo," the statement, addressed to the mayor's office, reads. "This will take away not only our spaces to feel safe, but take away jobs for artists who live off performing every night."

Residents are concerned about the increasing redevelopment of the Church Street strip, as this is certainly not the first time a small business and essential LGBT space has been lost to a similar large-scale construction project. Popular long-standing club Fly 2.0 met the same fate just last summer.

Many have contributed touching accounts of what the Crews space means to them when adding their signature to the page.

"This is a staple queer nightlife establishment in Toronto," one petitioner writes. "To get rid of it would be a catastrophic loss."

"If this is torn down, you aren't only taking away a building, it's so much more than that," another shares. "I've heard stories of Crews not only from people in Toronto but all around the world."

And yet another: "Crews and Tangos is a safe space for a lot of marginalized individuals who found solace under its roof... It would be doing a great disservice to everyone who fought to be heard and seen to tear this wonderful and historic establishment down."

Ward 13 Toronto Centre Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has issued a somewhat wishy-washy statement on the matter, acknowledging locals' concerns and saying that she is working hard to "protect the character of the Village."

She notes that real estate firm Graywood Group plans to conduct ongoing community consultation and encourages residents to sign her own petition to protect LGBTQ2S+ cultural spaces.

As many mourn the nightlife mainstays that continue to shutter for various reasons amid the rapidly-changing face of Toronto — a change many see as imposing gentrification in a city whose cost of living is becoming unmanageable — there is also a demand for more residential space. 

But, the city is looking for affordable housing in the midst of a housing crisis, not more pretentious condos that few can afford.

Also, the loss of important cultural institutions in exchange for residential units, especially institutions for marginalized and vulnerable communities, and especially residential units that are not affordable to those in the neighbourhood, doesn't seem like a fair trade-off.

As the petition says, "If Crews & Tangos is going to change, make it at least into another LGBT space."

Lead photo by

Joseph Morris

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