A tight-knit community is coming together with the hopes of saving a beloved local establishment from becoming yet another neighbourhood fixture replaced with condos.
Recently, it was revealed the Graywood Group, a Toronto-based real estate developer, has begun exploring the potential development opportunities of a property it owns in the city's gay village that currently houses a number of local businesses including Crews & Tangos.
The Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association released a statement to inform the community the real estate development group is “currently undertaking preliminary consultations with community groups, a precursor to a development proposal that will likely be submitted to the City later this year.” If the plans go through, the new development would span from 506 to 516 Church Street.
Subsequently, an online petition was launched this week to save the popular bar Crews & Tangos from potentially turning into a condo development, which has already garnered over 18,000 signatures since launching on Tuesday. The goal for the petition is set at 25,000.
“Crews & Tangos is a bar based in Toronto’s famous gay village, over the years the village has lost many bars and clubs, making the community smaller and smaller,” the petition reads.
The petition says the site in consideration also houses the gay bar Boutique and space that houses a stage during Pride Toronto.
"Three queer spaces taken for one condo. This will take away not only our spaces to feel safe, but take away jobs for artists who live off of performing every night."
At a press conference on Thursday, Mayor John Tory was asked about the possibility of the city losing another important fixture and told reporters it's a "major concern" and "a real source of frustration"
"The good news is that people want to build here, people want to live here, people want to work here and we have to have places for them to live and work but we have to do so in a way that’s compatible with the character of the city and some of the very special areas, including The Village that are part of who we are and a part of what we are,” he continued.
He added that thankfully the city has a very "robust" consultation process that involves people and the community.
"I am optimistic that the process will produce something that is a broadly acceptable to the community that recognizes the fact that there will be change in a big successful, growing city but we do it in a way that doesn't sweep away the past and preserves the best part of the past including the intimacy that comes from some of our very special village and retail type areas."
Kristyn Wong-Tam, councillor for Ward 11, which encompasses Church Street, says she is working to protect the businesses and cultural spaces in the neighbourhood.
"While the development process is still in its very early stage - what City Planning and I know is that the owners are looking to build a mid-rise, infill with mixed-use residential units with ground-floor retail," said Wong-Tam in a statement.
"As the only openly gay Toronto City Councillor and as someone who previously owned a small business in the Church Wellesley Village, I know personally how important safe, culturally significant small LGBTQ2S+ businesses are as gathering spaces for our community."
On the petition page, Francis Andreis, who stated the initiative, said that if the bar must change then it should be made into another LGBT space rather than a condo.
“The village is a safe haven for LGBT folk to be ourselves, moving our spaces to the ‘entertainment district’ and mixing us in with non-LGBT crowds will not make us feel safe, put us at actual risk for physical violence from outsiders.”
In response to Toronto Storeys request for comment, a spokesperson for Graywood Group released the following statement:
"While, Graywood has reached out to a few community groups to set up preliminary meetings, we are early in the planning process and there are no concrete plans at this moment. Graywood has recently signed a two-year lease extension with the operators of Crews and Tangos and we anticipate no changes to their operations during that time.
It’s our intention to work with our tenants and the community to understand the vision and values of the Church Wellesley neighbourhood, in order to have that feedback inform our development proposal.”
So, for at least another year or two you'll still definitely be able to get your Tango on.