Many KW residents may have noticed a lack of queer bars and other spaces in Waterloo Region. Although there were some over the last decade, they were mostly in non-ideal locations and most closed within a year of opening.
Last September, Waterloo Region branch of Dyke Bar Takeover began; it is an initiative that is trying to create more queer spaces in KW by temporarily ‘taking over’ local bars and clubs. Although that was the original concept, Dyke Bar Takeover, as with everyone else, has had to change their plans due to COVID-19.
“The idea was that we would take over a space for a day, an evening or an event and turn it into a gay bar for the evening. We wanted to partner with a lot of local businesses and queer organizations, but unfortunately [COVID-19] knocked the wind out of those sails pretty quickly, so we switched to offering online events,” Mia Houston, a founding member of the Waterloo Region initiative, said.
So far, these online events have included a comedy night, several trivia competitions, and a ‘Chosen Family Holiday Party’. Dyke Bar Takeover has been using these events to raise money for local organizations, particularly those who support the LGBTQ+ community and women.
“We’ve been able to partner with different queer performers and different queer non-profit organizations, and our goal from the start has been to raise money for the community and put it back into the community,” Houston said.
“We don’t keep any of the money that we get from the events that we raise. We pay our performers, we pay our hosts and then we give all the money to whatever charity we’re supporting for that event,” she said.
The organizations Dyke Bar Takeover has worked with so far include SPECTRUM Waterloo Region and Women’s College Hospital’s trans-related surgery fund. Most recently, they have done a trivia night supporting the SHORE Centre, an organization to which Houston has a special connection. She has worked with the Sex-Ability program which did sex education workshops for adults with developmental disabilities.
“I’ve been wanting to support the SHORE Centre since we started, and when we decided to run a sex trivia event, the SHORE Centre just seemed like a very natural partner because of their service model and what they offer,” Houston said. “One of the things that really bothered me was that at the end of that year when I was working with them, they didn’t get the funding grant that they were anticipating to continue running the Sex-Ability program.”
Houston said that, though SHORE will not cancel a program once they’ve started it, they were required to reconfigure the Sex-Ability program and partner with another organization just when the program was gaining momentum with local agencies.
Dyke Bar Takeover is planning on holding an event in June. The location will depend on what the COVID-19 restrictions are at that time.