WHERE 126 John, 416-979-0044, www.circatoronto.com
SIZE 55,000 square feet
OPENS Friday (October 5)
If nothing else, Peter Gatien has definitely learned how powerful the media can be in making or breaking a nightclub.
You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past two years not to know something about Circa, the brand new mega-club headed by Gatien, best known as the Canadian from Cornwall who ruled NYC's club scene before Rudy Giuliani and the family values brigade crushed everything that was once interesting about the Big Apple club scene.
The well-documented delays and dramas have only fed the massive hype behind his latest ambitious venture.
The highly anticipated four-floor multi-room and multi-purpose venue finally opens this weekend. However, with anticipation also comes a significant amount of skepticism and speculation. Momentum and interest guarantee that the first six months will be insanely busy, but how do you keep the fickle club crowd after that?
"Your club can be gilded in gold, but in the end it's the crowd you draw that makes you an institution or just another club that came and went," says Gatien as he lounges on a couch covered in sawdust from the ongoing construction.
"You have to reinvent yourself fairly often. As well as I think we've put this place together, I can't fall in love with it to the point where we can just open the doors and assume people are going to love us. I wish life were that easy. It's more like putting on a Broadway show every night."
The key, he says, is to put a lot of effort into drawing an eclectic crowd.
"I don't want everyone here to be gay. I don't want everyone here to look like they're from Bay Street. I don't want everyone here to be hiphop. You bring people together who have their fingers on the pulse of different parts of the culture and give them their comfort zones in the club.
"The guy wearing the Armani suit sees a guy in sequins and thinks he's a total loser, and the guy in sequins thinks the guy in the suit is a loser. I've found over the years, though, that when you get a wide range of people together like that, by the end of the night you see them sitting together and talking, exchanging ideas."
It's been a while since guys in sequins were a common sight in the club district. They've long since been replaced by baseball-cap-wearing suburbanites and Bay Street boys out on a weekend rampage.
You have to wonder whether Gatien has been out of the nightclub scene too long if he thinks he can recreate that clash of avant-garde and mainstream in the heartland of top-40 clubs and bottle-service lounges.
Of course, plastering the entry walls with Bruce La Bruce photos of gay skinheads and trannies does help establish that this isn't your regular meat market.
"If the Bruce LaBruce stuff is offensive to you, you're probably in the wrong place. Yeah, we're in the club district, but we're not going after that frat bar market. If some of those people want to come in here, they're welcome, but if they want to fit in, I guess they'll have to get a little sharper."
Even if this ends up being Toronto's biggest nightclub flop, it will definitely raise the bar for its competitors. Gatien's throwing a million and one ideas at this spot (and millions of dollars), and even in the midst of all the frantic last-minute construction, it's easy to see that nothing else in town compares.
In fact, there's little else like it in the world right now, and Torontonians aren't the only ones watching this project closely.
Are we ready for an artsy party on a grand scale? Only time will tell, but the massive crowds for Nuit Blanche are a sign that we can finally admit we're not just some square provincial town.