IS GAYTOWN DEAD? NOW forum probes the future of the gay village, with Heather MacKenzie, Sky Gilbert, Gerald Hannon, Jermaine Orr, Zoe Whittall and Paul Beggs. Free. Tonight (Thursday, June 21), 7 pm. NOW Lounge, 189 Church. 416-364-1301. Rating: NNNNN
WHAT WILL YOU BE DISCUSSING AT THE NOW FORUM? I'll be talking about my experience as a business owner who was on Church Street until just a few years ago and saw it change and go into decline. I didn't want to move, but I've found the neighbourhood on Parliament just as friendly and inviting.
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT DECLINE? There was SARS, which hurt everybody. And then the legalization of gay marriage. Suddenly gay people felt comfortable outside the village, able to hold hands and hang out and be themselves, and the gay village seemed to shrink a little bit as a result.
HOW DID YOU ADJUST TO THE CHANGES YOU SAW IN THE VILLAGE? My way of adjusting was to leave. We started a new restaurant in a new neighbourhood, which was difficult, trying to recreate our business and offer what people want and expect. But there's a great gay clientele in Cabbagetown, and gay people do like to give an opinion, so we know whether we're getting it right or not.
HAVE YOU SEEN CHANGES IN THE GAY VILLAGE SINCE THEN? The life seems to be coming back to the area. It's livelier than it's been in a while. The bars and restaurants are busy, there's a general sense of happiness. It's gotten some of that old vibe back, and I miss that excitement.
WOULD YOU EVER MOVE BACK? I'm actively looking for a spot in the village now to open a new place Big Mamma Comes To Church. Actually, I've always wanted to have a place called Heather's, a name that shows it's casual and friendly.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE ITEM ON BIG MAMMA'S BOY'S MENU? Closing time. Actually, the ribs and the smothered chicken are both fantastic. The pizza's great, the chocolate cake, the beer. And it's all gluten-free.
FAVOURITE COOKBOOK? The Joy Of Cooking. It's my mother's copy, all tattered and stained. It's great.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO GO OUT IN TORONTO? I love Kensington Market, sitting on Zelda's patio, the Boardwalk Pub on the Lakeshore, Byzantium, having drinks at the marina at Bluffer's Park. It's such a rich, amazing city, I don't like to stay in one area. There's so much to see and do.
FAVOURITE FOOD-RELATED MOVIE OR TV SHOW? Definitely something from The L Word. There's one episode where the girls are at this fantastic dinner party and they're all eating lobster, sucking the lobster claws. Very sexy.