Queer Bars of Kingston – Part II

Street Address : 139 Princess St.
Period : After 1950

One of the most popular bars for gay men was the Cat’s Meow, which operated from the ’60s to the ’70s and had been pre-dated by the Elbow Room. Located off the lobby of the LaSalle Hotel, it was frequented by single male travellers staying at the hotel and quite possibly looking for some company. It was a long narrow room with entrances both ends, making it possible to enter the bar from Princess St., casually pass through to see who was there, and then exit either alone or with someone else to the lobby at the back. The bar sat sixteen or eighteen people, “and it was all mirrors behind the bar so you could see everybody as you walked in. It was ideal…[people would] use those mirrors for eye contact. Oh! The door would swing open and every eye went to that door!” recalls Earl. Ironically, the fact that the Cat’s Meow was also frequented by straight men was what made some gay men feel comfortable in that environment. As long as there were lots of heterosexual men around, gay men could go there without fearing that their presence at the bar would reveal their sexual identity.

Although there were some public spaces in which lesbians and gays could meet and socialize, this activity was fairly covert, and queer social networks were often developed through other means, such as private house parties. On the whole, gay presence in Kingston bars from the ’50s to the ’70 is characterized by the silence that surrounds it.

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LaSalle Hotel
LaSalle Hotel