Kelowna's only country bar and LGBTQ+ lounge face different post pandemic realities and challenges | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Kelowna's only country bar and LGBTQ+ lounge face different post pandemic realities and challenges

Image Credit: Friends of Dorothy

Roughly six weeks after Kelowna’s only LGBTQ+ lounge celebrated its grand opening, it was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19.

Friends of Dorothy, a cocktail lounge that hosts live entertainment and serves up shareables on Lawrence Avenue, opened Jan. 25 and closed a few days before provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order that all restaurants and bars needed to shut down. That order has since been rescinded and bars and restaurants may operate with a 50-person limit.

READ MORE: B.C. declares public health emergency, orders all bars and clubs to shut down

The lounge had a soft opening last week, but owner Rudy Tomazic says its been a tough few months. He estimated that it will take another two years for the lounge to generate the lost revenue due to the two months of closure.

During the closure, Tomazic and his team decided to get creative with their menu and deliveries.

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

Drag queens delivered the bar’s food as far as Peachland, and Tomazic said “the shock value was amazing.” With most people stuck indoors, they were looking for entertainment, he said.

“We keep a few of the local drag queens for that time period,” he said.

The lounge has ended the delivery service since its reopening but is promoting a charcuterie board pickup.

They also partnered with Kakes by Kathie, a wedding-cake business that was struggling, he said.

“We were selling her cakes and calling it ‘send a sparkle to somebody.”

The lounge is operating at half capacity and will be providing live entertainment starting next week.

As bars and restaurants start to reopen their doors, a provincial order for nightclubs to remain closed is still in place.

“Because we’re not a nightclub, we’re a lounge with food, we don’t fall into that theme. We’re open to midnight,” he said.

READ MORE: Kelowna's BNA re-opens, owner says they have a 'fighting chance'

Not everyone is so lucky. The Ok Corral Cabaret, a Kelowna country nightclub, wants to be provided with the same opportunity as restaurants and pubs,  Andy Bowie, managing partner, said in an email.

“We can adapt to the new way of the world and open up similar to pubs and restaurants with all protocols in place to protect staff and patrons,” Bowie said.

The nightclub would comply with all social distancing measures outlined by various health authorities, he said. It's also possible that the nightclub won't survive until Phase of 4 of B.C.'s restart plan. The dates of the last phase has yet to be announced but B.C. is currently in Phase 2.

He said that the club needs to use its large parking lot, to turn it into a service area to allow for safe social distancing.

“We would space tables out two-meters apart or more. We have a system in place called Patron Scanner which scans everyone’s identification before entry. We can ensure that patrons stay in their groups (maximum six as allotted) otherwise they can easily be banned across Canada through the Patron Scan system. The dance floor would be shut down and no dancing permitted,” he said.

The nightclub also has a food truck on-site that could adjust to the COVID-19 protocols.

“We can have washroom attendants on hand that would sanitize after each use,” he said, adding with more than 60 part-time staff employed, the club would love to hire some of them back.

In the past, the club has struggled to survive. and in 2015, saw a dramatic drop in customers. However, Bowie said that was when the nightclub was under previous ownership.

Bowie feels that the club is an integrated part of the community.

"There is a community that has been part of the Corral for many years. There are many people that have met and been married over the years, many friendships developed. When we hosted bands over the years, guests and bands would come from all over western Canada to take part in the entertainment provided at the cabaret, filling hotels, restaurants and spending money in the community. We’ve helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for people and non-profit organizations in need,” he said.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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