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The inclusive music/comedy bar and nightclub is the latest business to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Club 120, known as one of the most inclusive nightclubs in Toronto, is closing.
In addition to one of the few late-night venues in the city, it was a bastion for comedy, live music and a sex-positive hub for many marginalized communities, including trans parties that were sometimes shut out from other queer spaces.
The Church Street venue originally called Goodhandy’s, along with the ground-floor restaurant and cabaret space 120 Diner, was already in a precarious position. The building is owned by the developer Madison Properties and is slated for eventual demolition for a massive two-tower condo project. But 120 owners Mandy Goodhandy and Todd Klinck had recently signed a five-year lease on the space.
“We tried very hard to navigate the system and hang in there, and we were able to keep our lease intact until at least the end of May due to the generous donations on GoFundMe and in person, but with the way the world is turning, there is no sane or rational way that we can keep this space alive,” wrote Klinck in an extensive goodbye note on Facebook.
“The uncertainty of the restaurant and club business is the main reason it will be impossible for us to hold out,” Klinck continued. “All indications point to a world where restaurants will at first re-open with limited capacity and the structure of the virus and how it spreads makes us wonder if the medical community will even permit crowded bars and nightclubs to open ever, before a vaccine.”
Beyond those reasons, Klinck writes about all the harsh financial realities facing a bar or restaurant in Toronto both before and after the pandemic. “We are heartbroken to visualize a city where perhaps 50 per cent and even up to 75 per cent of all bars and clubs and restaurants will not survive. Take our struggle and multiply it by tens of thousands of other small businesses across the country and try not to weep.”
The Canadian government introduced a commercial rent relief plan, but it put the onus on commercial landlords to opt in, and many have been reluctant. Just one in five small businesses expect to get rent relief, a small business survey reports.
“The CECRA [Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance] program is not useful,” writes Klinck. “Small businesses can’t keep paying expenses while the powers that be try to find solutions… Our industry, and other industries that rely on small or larger groups, have arguably been hit the hardest. And virtually no politician has expressed this view or gone to bat for us directly. Time will tell, but it looks grim.”
For the sake of transparency, he goes on to outline the insurance and monthly expenses businesses like 120 can rack up, along with the competing issues of their landlords. As restaurants and music venues continue to close in Toronto, it’s a telling document of this moment in the life of a small business owner, .
Before it closes, 120 Diner will continue doing takeout and delivery via Uber Eats until Friday, May 8. Mandy Goodhandy will present her Cocktails and Tarot Readings events online as well as occasional virtual concerts while Klinck studies to become a real estate agent.
The pair will also do interviews on Zoom and present a series of online goodbye parties in May and June.