Halifax’s only LGBTQ bar started out in a backyard. He is now looking for a house

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After an underground summer, Halifax’s only LGBTQ bar is ready to bloom.

The Queer Garden launched in June in a northern backyard as a temporary outdoor space for people to gather, and hosted its final event on Saturday night with a Halloween dance.

But the party is not over yet. The team behind the Garden is looking for a permanent space.

“It exceeded our expectations. We started the project with the hope, you know, ‘If we build it, they will come,'” Queer Garden co-founder Mike Scaife said on Saturday, surrounded by carved pumpkins and of Halloween decorations in the trees. .

Mike Scaife, co-founder of Queer Garden, hosted underground dance parties and events in his backyard this summer. (Jeorge Sadi / CBC)

“The support we got by doing this, the positivity, the good vibes, everyone is coming as they are and who they are, it’s just wonderful.”

Scaife, whose backyard hosts the garden, partnered with Justin Chevrette and Erin Delorey for the project. All three have backgrounds in the food and service industry, and both Scaife and Delorey have quit their daily jobs to focus solely on the garden.

From the street, the only sign that something unique exists is the illuminated door painted with the rainbow colors of the pride and the trans flag. When it opens, people are often greeted by the Garden’s mascot, Scaife’s Burrow, Hank.

The door leading to Queer Garden in Halifax. (Jeorge Sadi / CBC)

Scaife said the idea came from COVID-19, combined with the fact that there are very few queer spaces left in Halifax. Since the closure of Menz and Mollyz last year, Halifax does not have a dedicated LGBTQ bar.

“After the pandemic and the isolation and lockdowns, we just felt the importance of being able to create a support structure, and we felt like a lot of people didn’t have that access,” Scaife said.

While the team wanted to create a space where everyone could feel comfortable and meet other people outside of a computer screen, limited funds meant starting with a local project in the backyard. Scaife yard with smaller groups.

The Queer Garden space in North Halifax before its last party on Saturday night, including Hank the Burrow. The team behind the project are now doing crowdfunding to help create a permanent home. (Jeorge Sadi / CBC)

Anyone who showed up to attend the weekly silent dance parties or RuPaul Drag Race parties only got the address after making an online reservation. Scaife said the “speakeasy” factor keeps people safe and comfortable.

“It’s very simple things like, ‘Can I hold my boyfriend’s hand?’” Said Chevrette, pausing for a moment with tears in his eyes, before smiling broadly.

“And that’s not a question here. You can do whatever you want and you’ll be celebrated for it.”

Justin Chevrette, co-founder of Queer Garden, says he is proud to have built a space where everyone can be fully themselves. (Jeorge Sadi / CBC)

Traveling to different countries, Chevrette said he always seeks out queer communities to make friends and feel comfortable, but until the Garden he hadn’t found that atmosphere in his own city.

Creating a fun and safe space for trans, non-binary and gender-non-conforming Haligonians has been especially important, said Chevrette, which is a “beautiful thing,” but they often don’t feel welcome in other bars.

Honorine Ikirezi has been a staple at these weekly dance parties and most events, since she came to the Garden alone one evening this summer.

Ikirezi, who goes by the nickname Happy, said she quickly became a friend of the owners of the garden and met so many great people across the space.

Honorine Ikirezi says Queer Garden has helped her make a lot of new friends, and having a queer community to turn to has become a precious part of her life. (Jeorge Sadi / CBC)

Since moving to Halifax from Rwanda in 2017 to attend school, Ikirezi said it was the first time she felt like she had found a queer community.

“It’s really important, you know, to meet people that I can relate to,” Ikirezi said. “You belong… I feel like I have this little family in Halifax. “

The team is now crowdfunding to create the Queer Garden Cafe & Lounge, with a goal of $ 55,600 for a permanent location.

Chevrette and Scaife said they want this to be a space the community can call their own, with great food and drink as well as performers and queer performers.

Visitors to the Queer Garden dance at a silent disco event on a Saturday this summer. In these evenings, everyone listens to the same music pumped through headphones. (Queer garden)

“Our biggest dream would be that it is the love that is shared here, and the experience that is shared here, spreads and spills over into the world,” said Chevrette.

“We want it to spill over from the street we are on, from the north to the rest of the province. We want people to come and share it and bring it to their own community. We just want him to grow up.

While the garden has closed for the year in its original space, they plan to host pop-up events in other locations around Halifax until they find something permanent.


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