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Backlot lease termination prompts movement to save decades-old Calgary queer space


The future of a Calgary gay bar that’s been a staple of the LGBTQ2S+ community over the past 47 years is now in jeopardy as ownership was handed a lease termination notice for a proposed condo development.

The Backlot Bar located at 209 10 Avenue S.W. is one of only three queer spaces in the city that’s known as being a safe space to gather and avoid discrimination. Several non-profit organizations also have used the venue to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for community projects.

As it stands, the Backlot’s lease is set to be terminated in November to make way for a proposed 18-storey, 120 unit, mixed-use multi-residential building.

The news has prompted queer politician and lawyer David Khan to launch a social media campaign encouraging Calgarians to submit comments on the opposition to the city’s development permit process.

“There has been a hollowing out of gay communities in Toronto on Church Street and Davie Street in Vancouver, and we've never had much of that here in Calgary so we're desperate to have just at least the three bars that we have,” he said.

“It’s clear that there's still major discrimination against our community as evidenced by the threats of violence against drag shows.”


A post shared by SAVE THE BACKLOT BAR YYC!! (@save_the_backlotKhan adds that the Backlot’s landlords, the Ryder family, have expressed a willingness to explore options to keep the bar open and come up with a solution to continue providing a safe and welcoming solution for Calgary’s queer community.

“We're really hopeful that we'll have some productive conversations with the owners and developers and we can solve this problem cooperatively and find a new space for the Backlot that will be nearby and safe.”

Employees for the Backlot including bartender, Zak Stinson agree that the continuation of safe spaces for the LGBTQ2S+ community is essential now more than ever.

“It’s like you’re losing a community centre in a way because we have folks who have come down here for years. There’s already an issue with the elderly LGBTQ folks getting lost in the system and ending up alone so we don’t want that to happen,” Stinson said.

“We’ve had a moment of peace, but it’s getting to the point where it’s starting to be scary again. Keeping these community spaces is so important to us.”

The Backlot bar in Calgary


Backlot Bar owner Mark Campbell said he will continue to participate in the development process and that he’s very appreciative of the overwhelming community support.

He noted that it’s important for the city to recognize the importance of ensuring any new development in this location is designed to accommodate businesses that contribute to Calgary’s urban nightlife and Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

“The community needs it, this bar has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for different charities, the sports teams have helped throughout the years as well in supporting the business,” said Campbell

“Just the average the average LGBTQ2S+ person will look at the bar and it’s sort of like the ‘Cheers’ of the gay community.”

Campbell has been in discussions with Truman Homes representatives who he says has shown him design renderings of the new condo space which include an homage to the Backlot and the queer community in one of its ground floor retail units.

“That’s a nice gesture, but the bar itself is incredibly important. This is not just a gay space, it’s a space for anybody that is an ally to the gay community or has a son or daughter or whoever that they go with and feel comfortable and feel like they have people around them that the right to fit in.”

CTV News has reached out to Truman Homes for comment, but has not heard back.

The building in which The Backlot is located has deep historical roots and significance in Calgary. It was built in 1907 by former mayor, Thomas Underwood as the Calgary Gas Company Workshop and is one of the last remaining wood-frame, wood-clad buildings in the city.

The City of Calgary has catalogued the building in its Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources.

The Backlot is located in a heritage building


The City of Calgary has confirmed to CTV News that its team is still in the process of reviewing a development permit application that was submitted to the city for the southwest corner of 1 Street and 10 Avenue S.W.

“We’ve completed our initial review of the application and are currently waiting on the applicant’s response to the city’s comments,” said Morgan Huber, who is a senior planner.

“Once received, we’ll review the amended plans and prepare and present a recommendation to Calgary Planning Commission for a decision," Huber said. "If people are interested in learning about the development proposal or want to share their comments, they can find more information on our development map at The development applications review team is happy to receive comments on the application until February 28.”

A Calgary Planning Commission date for this development permit will be confirmed after February 28, once the city has received a formal response from the applicant and reviewed the amended plans package.

The Calgary Planning Commission is not a public hearing, but members of the public are welcome to watch it live, in-person or online at Top Stories

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