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Kelowna LGBTQ+ bar owner seizes upon success and expands to other cities

Friends of Dorothy opened a second location in Victoria, in December 2020.
Friends of Dorothy opened a second location in Victoria, in December 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Darren Hull

A Kelowna bar owner has found success with his brand of LGBTQ+ lounges and is expanding across the province. 

Friends of Dorothy Lounge opened last year on Lawrence Avenue and its owner Rudy Tomazic has a vision is to create bars and lounges for B.C.'s queer community.

In December 2020, he opened a second location in Victoria and a third location in Vancouver is already in the works. Kelowna's location was the first LGBTQ+ lounge to open in the Okanagan.

READ MORE: Okanagan's first LGBTQ+ lounge set to open in Kelowna

Victoria’s Friends of Dorothy is double Kelowna’s size, and has “been received with enormous success,” he said. The Vancouver Island location also has a large covered outdoor area on Johnson Street and it's open for all ages for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Overall the lounges have been doing well. Kelowna's location had "some bumps," he said, as it was intended to be more of an entertainment venue but COVID-19 restrictions caused business to slow down.

Rudy Tomazic owner of Friends of Dorothy, stands outside of the lounge
Rudy Tomazic owner of Friends of Dorothy, stands outside of the lounge's new Victoria location.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Darren Hull

But the lounge survived and held online live performances to align with COVID-19 restrictions, he said.

He chose to open a second location because “building a business model in a pandemic, if it makes sense, is even more set for success when you’re out of the pandemic,” he said.

It was also a way for him to keep busy and people have been asking for a space like this in Victoria, he said.

“People have come here and said ‘Oh my God, I was in Kelowna, and this is amazing I can’t believe this is in Victoria,’” he said, adding that customers who visited Kelowna’s location in the summer were happy to see a location on Vancouver Island.

He hopes to open a Vancouver location by the end of 2021, “pandemic or no pandemic, Dorothy’s is moving forward.”

Tomazic also looked to establish lounges in locations that promote diverse communities and that have larger populations, he said.

The term "friend of Dorothy" carries a lot of meaning. In the past, the LGBT2Q+ community would use the term as a euphemism for discussing one’s sexual orientation without letting everyone know for fear of violence and discrimination. There are several different stories as to where the term originated. The best stories relate to Judy Garland, a gay icon, and her role in The Wizard of Oz.

To find out more about Friends of Dorothy, visit its website.

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