Photo of the front door of the building that formally hosted Dive Bar, in Uptown Waterloo.
KATARINA WEX PHOTO

DIVE BAR CLOSURE A SHOCK, BUT NOT A SURPRISE

Local nightlife hub Dive Bar closed its doors permanently on May 15, 2024. Their landlord posted a notice of lease termination to their door, the notice was dated May 14. A similar notice was posted at 24 King Street North, home to the Erb and Culture nightclub for five years.    

The closure of Dive Bar, at 85 King Street North, has left a noticeable vacuum in the nightlife of Uptown. Over the past five years, it has been the home of several drag shows that have been put on by local drag artists.   

“I was definitely affected. And I had an event planned there on June 1, to be at Tri-Pride after-party because I did that last year. It was one of our most successful events.  So, it affected me directly with not being able to do that,” Adam Bryan, drag performer and event organizer, said.   

Bryan has produced drag shows in the region since 2021. He had some partnerships with local drag performers before eventually producing the shows on his own. During 2023 Bryan had an event running at Dive Bar every month.   

Dive Bar was known to live up to its name, being a relatively smaller bar servicing the Uptown weekend crowd. Many alternative and punk events were held in space, including hosting the rock band “antisocial surf club” and their Head in the Sand tour.   

Many local drag performers saw Dive Bar as a queer and trans affirming space due to the friendly staff and security. As of July 2024, there is no designated 2SLGBTQ+ bar open in Waterloo Region. The Well, a popular queer bar is currently under construction but is not yet open, though its website promises it will open in “Spring 2024.”  

“It was lots of fun working at Dive Bar. We held whatever kinds of musical events and all the bartenders were DJs. It was a space unlike any other,” Brian Scheid, the event booker for Dive Bar, said.   

Since Dive Bar closed its doors, Bryan hosts drag events at UP Lounge Waterloo, at the venue that was previously known as Ace Ping Pong Lounge. UP Lounge is registering to be a part of Rainbow Pages by Spectrum. The Rainbow Pages is a directory for queer-friendly businesses, agencies and institutions in Waterloo Region. While Dive Bar was not registered in the Rainbow Pages, Bryan and other 2SLGBTQ+ community members cited the affirming security and staff for making the space safe.   

“My experience working with the owner was really good. Obviously, things changed in the COVID events. And then post COVID events, there was more seating was added because they had a bigger capacity. That definitely changed a lot. But the owner Josh was very receptive to every single idea. And I was very excited because I was able to bring over 40 entertainers into that bar,” Bryan said.   

As of July 2024, it is unclear what will replace Dive Bar in their old venue. Many 2SLGBTQ+ event organizers like Bryan hope the next venue will also be a safe, affirming space for queer community members.