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Montreal's Gay Village (The Village, French, Le Village gai or simply Le Village) is located on Saint Catherine Street East, centred on Beaudry metro station, and on Amherst Street in the Ville-Marie borough of the city. The Village runs approximately from Berri Street to De Lorimier Street on Saint Catherine Street, and between Sherbrooke Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard on Amherst Street, a distance of nearly two kilometres, making it the largest in North America in terms of scope of the complete area.
Formerly a poor working-class neighbourhood, part of the Centre-South area of the city, the area was occupied by the gay and lesbian community after the huge expulsion of many gay businesses from an area closer to Saint Lawrence Boulevard (or "The Main" as the locals call it). The area has been considerably brightened up, thanks in part to recent investment from the various levels of all governments.
Indeed, despite repression as late as the early 1990s, recent government support of "Le Village" has been significant. All three levels of government are aggressively promoting the Village, and with the accepting climate of Quebec, and gay life in Montreal as a tourist attraction. In recognition of the Village's importance to the city, Montreal's Ville-Marie borough that includes the Village recently hung a rainbow flag in its council chambers, and recently redecorated the entrance to the Beaudry Metro station found in the heart of the Gay Village with rainbow pillars. The Village is specifically marked on official city maps as "Le Village".
The first recorded gay establishment in North America was Montrealer Moise Tellier’s apple and cake shop on Craig Street (now Saint Antoine Street) in 1869. History
There were generally two concentrations of establishments where gays were welcome, or that, by the 1970s, became openly gay businesses. This mirrored Montreal's more language-segregated culture. These were the Montreal West End (mainly anglophone) and The Main (mixed, but mainly francophone):
Montreal West End
The West End of Montreal's downtown. It was centered in the western end of the downtown area of the city, with bars on Stanley Street and Drummond Street, and with Shaughnessy Village west of Guy Street (officially rue Guy) as its residential neighbourhood. In fact, this was seen as the mostly anglophone gay village. By the 1950s, Dominion Square (now Dorchester Square) was seen as an area where men could meet and cruise and the centrally located "Dominion Square Tavern" was known as a place where gays could meet (it still exists today but has lost its gay clientèle). As is traditional, until the 1980s, gay life was centered around bars and taverns, and some restaurants, who tolerated a gay clientèle. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, many gay-owned or gay-open businesses existed, and it became the city's main gay concentration, though it was still relatively marginal and kept discreet. The businesses consisted mainly of clubs, where men could dance.
The Main, the strip of businesses on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and east along Saint Catherine Street East, an area also known as "Le Red Light", since the businesses catered to a marginal clientèle. The east had a more francophone clientèle. Here, the businesses consisted mainly of taverns, often featuring drag shows.
Development of Gay Village
Originally, there were only a handful of establishments located in what is now the Village gai. In the early 1980s, some bars opened along Saint-Catherine Street East, between Berri Street and Papineau Avenue, in Montreal's Centre-Sud area. Eventually, a new generation of gays also moved into the neighbourhood, both anglophone and francophone. Many came from other parts of Quebec. This was encouraged by the creation of a "Quartier Latin" (in English Latin Quarter) dominated by the new campus of the Université du Québec à Montréal.
The phrase "Le Village de l'Est" (the Eastern Village) was coined by one of the original bar owners from then-popular bar/club called K.O.X. in an advertisement. After living in New York City, it was his intention to create a strong vibrant gay community similar to the East Village in New York. The phrase was used as a way to refer to this new community, referring to its eastern geographical location from downtown, as opposed to the traditional west end. Eventually the name shortened to simply "Le Village" by the gay community itself. The success was solidified by the fact that it became both a gay residential and commercial district. But its success reflected the near disappearance of gay businesses from the west of downtown.
By the 1990s, "The Village" had already started its expansion on Amherst Street, with the departure of many antique shops, more gay owned and operated businesses were emerging. At the same time, it had become well-established, and gained political recognition, acceptance by all LGBT persons, and by heterosexuals as well. It has continuously thrived, gaining popularity, the area beautified, the housing renovated. Almost all gay businesses in Montréal are now situated in this area.
Although many gays reside and are also very present in other parts of Montreal, the Gay Village remains the heart of, and service centre for, Montreal's LGBT community.
Life in the Gay Village
Gays and lesbians live all over the highly accepting city, so their residential density in the Village is only slightly higher than elsewhere. However, the Village contains a variety of shops and services targeting the community, and so serves as an entertainment and tourism centre rather than as a gay neighbourhood strictly speaking. A wide range of local media, radio and TV stations are located in the same area as the gay community.
The Village contains a wide variety of nightlife: bars and discothèques catering to all tastes, including three very large entertainment complexes, one of which is the largest of its kind in the world. There are also a wide range of boutiques, restaurants, cafés, bed-and-breakfasts, and major chain-style hotels.
The Société de Développement Commercial (SDC) du Village (in English Commercial Development Corporation of the Village) represents the businesspeople of the Village. The Centre communautaire des gais et lesbiennes de Montréal (in English Montreal Gay and Lesbian Community Centre) is its cultural hub. Through the Fondation Mario-Racine it is currently planning on constructing an important community complex in the heart of the Village.
The city also contains a number of gay establishments outside of the Village area, particularly in areas that are historic gay neighbourhoods. The Gay Village is bordered to the west by the new Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal's entertainment district.
Finally, the government lent their support in securing the Gay Games. The city later lost the right to hold the Games under that name because the Federation of Gay Games considered their plans too ambitious. Instead, Montréal Rendez-Vous 2006, the first edition of the World Outgames, took place in Montréal, with the 2006 Gay Games moved to Chicago.
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