The "newest dive bar on Bloor" will soon take over for the short-lived queer-friendly music venue Less Bar
After weeks of speculation, NOW has learned that the former Less Bar space at 834 Bloor West will be home to a new bar called Wasted Youth, which is aiming to open by early February. It will be owned and operated by Mike Taylor, former manager of the bar Wolf Like Me.
Only three months after we first reported on the opening of Less Bar in September, the queer-friendly music venue suddenly closed and put a “For Sale” sign in its window. Though bookers/managers Carmen Elle and Max Mohenu were no longer involved, owner Kevin Kennedy had maintained on the venue’s Facebook group that Less Bar would reopen when he found someone to take over the lease and manage the space.
Kennedy tells NOW he sold Less Bar’s business assets and lease to Taylor earlier this month. Before a brief incarnation as a sports bar called Homestand, Wolf Like Me had occupied the Less Bar space, so things seem to have come full circle.
Taylor ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the new business in December, raising $12,425 from 38 backers – well over his goal of $10,000 – in just 10 days.
Speaking by phone, Taylor says that Wasted Youth will likely not focus on live music like Less Bar did, but hopes to book some shows “intermittently.” The layout and design will remain the same, including the stage.
Taylor speaks highly of his time at Wolf Like Me and hopes to be able to “bring a hot-spot with that community vibe back to the neighbourhood.” Wasted Youth’s Facebook page describes it as the “newest dive bar on Bloor.”
When asked about whether he and his staff will operate Wasted Youth with a “safe space policy” like Less Bar did, Taylor says, “Absolutely. It was always my goal at Wolf to not welcome anyone back if they were making people uncomfortable. I very much like having people feel comfortable in the space, to go in on their own and feel that they’ll see a friendly face and be able to pull right up to the bar and have someone to talk to.”
The closure of Less Bar came as a shock because of the community support and excitement extended to the new live venue located in a neighbourhood left reeling from the shuttering of fellow queer-friendly space the Holy Oak last year. Nearby punk venue/cafe D-Beatstro will also close in February.
As for why Less Bar closed so suddenly, owner Kennedy says the business was left with little choice.
“Near the end of November we were hit with some unexpected and large expenses connected to the PA system, which we were renting,” he says. “That put us urgently behind the 8-ball.”
When asked how a few unexpected costs could’ve put the bar in such dire straits only three months into its existence, Kennedy says he initially ran cost and sales projections that would have seen the bar “outgrow the space by the end of the lease, which would’ve been about a year after we’d opened.”
But the sales weren’t happening. “Sales alone weren’t paying for the infrastructure behind the music. Live music was a core part of the business, but funding that aspect was also a lot more expensive than we expected,” he says.
On November 23, Kennedy introduced a membership/subscription model, hoping to capitalize on the large community of people who’d assembled to support the bar in a closed Facebook group, a place where management shared events and patrons could weigh in and discuss future programming.
“If a third of the people in our Facebook group contributed, that would have definitely kept us in business,” he says. “Five hundred people – that’s like $3,500 bucks a month. That’s what we were spending on infrastructure for the live music.”
But in introducing membership, Kennedy says he lost the confidence of managers Elle (also of the band DIANA) and Mohenu, who resigned shortly after the announcement was made.
On November 25, bar manager and booking agent Elle took to the Facebook group to announce that Less Bar would be closing as of December 2. Later, the post was amended to say that it would remain open but under different management and with new staff. The post has since been deleted.
Kennedy says it wasn’t Elle’s call to announce the bar’s closure and that announcing the news prematurely hindered the business’s chances of finding new staff and partners. He says he had told her they needed money but hadn’t planned for that information to be made public and didn’t plan to close the bar.
Elle declined to comment on Kennedy’s account, but sent the following statement: “I poured my heart and soul into Less Bar. I did everything I could to keep the business going with what resources were available. I am incredibly sad it didn’t succeed.”
Mohenu did not respond to a request for comment.
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