Toronto bar Sweaty Betty’s is crowdfunding to stay open

A GoFundMe has launched to help the beloved 17-year-old Ossington bar pay rent and utilities during the pandemic

Sweaty Betty’s is struggling to keep the lights on.

Before the beloved longstanding Ossington bar becomes the latest to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporters Jessica Thomson and Michelle Bodner have launched a GoFundMe to keep it alive.

“Now is the time that we need to come together as a community and… help save this amazing bar,” she writes on the fundraiser, titled “Help save Sweaty Betty’s from closing its doors.”

The bar reportedly underwent $15,000 in renovations to reopen safely in the summer before bars were forced to close again. All the funds raised will go to rent and utilities in order to scrape by during the winter months. The target goal is set to $50,000, and in the 20 hours the GoFundMe has been up it’s raised more than $11,000.

Sweaty Betty’s opened 17 years ago just north of Queen West, years before Ossington exploded with trendy bars and restaurants. It was a proud neighbourhood dive bar from the beginning, and it’s stayed that way – packed, loud, unpretentious and friendly as the neighbourhood gentrified around it. It’s got a classic Toronto jukebox.

May Brand, a manager there since 2008, took over as the owner of the bar in 2018. The GoFundMe praises her for updating the aesthetic with photos from horror films and women in music, for making the bar a welcoming space for the queer community – especially urgent as Toronto’s queer spaces continue to disappear during the pandemic.

“May’s poured her blood, sweat and tears into keeping this iconic bar a safe space for everyone, especially since there are so few queer spaces in the west end of the city,” Thomson writes. “Her ‘If you are racist, homophobic, transphobic, or just an asshole, don’t come in here!’ sign on the front door is as iconic to the bar as the red lighting, vintage couches, and custom red heart neon sign in the front window.”

With the second lockdown dragging on as COVID cases continue to rise in Ontario, more and more bars have been turning to crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Cherry Cola’s Rock ‘n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge continues to raise money as they face pressures from their landlord, while Hard Luck Bar has met its goal.

Can the Sweaty Betty’s community save this bar from closing?


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