If you’re like me, everyone you know is over the rainbow with excitement about The Vicious Poodle and Friends of Dorothy — and rightfully so. Victoria’s queer scene has been within a millimeter of non-existent for far too many years, and the arrival of not just one but two fabulous new venues in the same year, in the middle of a pandemic, is worth celebrating. But many would argue that Victoria as a whole is, and always has been, extremely queer-friendly. I would agree — but definitely some spots more than others.
So as spring blossoms burgeon and COVID vaccines roll out, a young man’s thoughts turn to… wait a minute… this old queer’s thoughts turn to sunshine, cocktails, and dating. Remember when we were allowed to date? Those days are getting close to returning to a reasonable facsimile of normal — distancing, bubbles, and masks will still be a reality, and outdoors will continue to be the safer option, but over the course of this spring, chances are good we’ll at least be able to expand our bubbles a bit and maybe even go on a date now and then. And since we all can’t fit into FOD or the Poodle at the same time, it’s a good time to remember all those queer-friendly places that have supported us for years, so as we’re allowed to get out more, we can continue to support them.
This extremely short list is far from complete, but it should give you a good starting point — to dream from if nothing else. At least for now.
The Garrick’s Head
1140 Government St.
Great food, one of the best beer lists in town, and awesome staff make The Garrick’s Head one of the best non-queer queer bars in the city. Many fine folks who volunteer to serve you beer at Pride every year come from The Garrick’s Head. And the patio overlooks Bastion Square, making it great for people-watching.
1210 Broad St
One word: patio. Two words: Bodega Board. Bodega’s covered, heated patio, right on Trounce Alley, has a cozy, slightly-upscale European vibe, making it a great place to while away an evening over a glass or three of amazing Garnacha or Tempranillo. And if you’re on a budget, the Bodega Board includes enough high-quality cheese, charcuterie, pickles, mustard, and other accompaniments to feed a bubble of four really well, and for only eight bucks each.
The Drake Eatery
517 Pandora Ave (Market Square)
The Drake is the place for great craft beer. Period. They have a few ciders and a small selection of BC wine, but beer from all over the Pacific Northwest is their thing. And they do it really well. The patio is small but fantastic, and with COVID, they opened a beer garden on the lower level of Market Square, which (if it returns) is fantastic on a warm afternoon or evening.
Whistle Buoy Brewing
Market Square - Lower Courtyard
Right across the courtyard from The Drake is Whistle Buoy Brewing. They brew all their own beers on-site, and they’re really, really good. They have a cozy, covered patio that isn’t just queer-friendly, it’s dog-friendly and open every day, rain or shine. Or even snow — during our recent dump of the white stuff, Whistle Buoy was serving up a stout-infused boozy hot chocolate that was downright delectable. They don’t do food but you’re welcome to bring your own, and on weekends, The Wandering Mollusk is on the patio with a fresh-shucked oyster pop-up.
515 Yates Street
Fiamo is a personal favourite, great for date night, late-night, or Happy Hour. ($6 martinis? Sign me up!) Solid Italian comfort food (try the Carbonara), great cocktails (the grapefruit margarita is not to be missed), and friendly, attentive staff. Plus, it’s just a short walk through Waddington Alley for a nightcap at Friends of Dorothy.