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Rumours Cabaret: a new gay bar for Halifax

map of halifax pointing to 1668 Lower Water St

June 8: Wayves writer Kevin Dadouses attended opening night; here's his report!

Here's the interview done back in mid-March, 2024

"On May 1, Rumours Cabaret officially opens as a gay, trans, women safe space which is inclusive for everyone," says owner Gerald McCowan.

A couple weeks ago, McCowan announced (via the Facebook group Gays In Halifax) that he'll be opening on Water Street, and Wayves publisher Dan MacKay sat down with him a couple of days later. McCowan immediately took charge of the interview:

"I moved here when I was 18 years old, was a cook in the army for years and when I retired, I went back to school to take Tourism Management and ran a little hospitality company called Metro Hospitality Services," he says. "For a while, I was a bartender at the gay bar, Buddies, in Edmonton — that was a lot of fun!"

Frankly, this city is a little scary sometimes. We need a space that is our space.

During his time in the military, McCowan experienced harassment for being gay. 

He now wants to create a safe space for gay and trans people in Halifax. "We need one," he says. "Frankly, this city is a little scary sometimes. We need a space that is our space."

That space will be called Rumours Cabaret, run by McCowan and his husband José Chiu. The couple has been together since they met online six years ago. 

The goal is for Rumours to be fully inclusive as well as secure. "We have lots of cameras on site, and everything will be about safety and taking care of our customers. That's what it's all about," explains McCowan. "Of course, it'll be open to everyone but very clearly a 100 per cent gay bar. This is going to be our bar!"

"The name Rumours Cabaret was available, and we love the name and think that the nostalgia associated with it will be great for the business. Speaking of nostalgia, this is the original cabaret license that Reflections had."

That licence will allow the bar to be open for partying until 3:30 a.m. on weekends. Trivia, bingo, games and more will be on offer during weeknights. And, if it wasn't obvious, drag shows will be part of the mix as well. "We can offer special nights for women and the bears. And Hallowe’en. And we’ll be open on Christmas Day -- when you’re done with your family, then what do you want to do?"

McCowan and Chiu are collaborating with the lesbian-owned distillery JD Shores, renting the space from Arla Johnson and Julie Shore. "Having these two women as our landlords will be an enormous help," says McCowan. 

Editor: Three years ago, Wayves ran an interview with Arla of JD Shore, about Queer Spirit Church, here.

As for renovations, McCowan says there are some minor changes in store, "but it's not a bad space right now as it is." It can hold about 180 people, 60 of them seated. "There are two bars with chairs, a DJ booth and a good sound system. We'll add some TVs. There's a patio outside, on the sidewalk; it'll hold 30-40 people. We'll get the lighting fixed up out front and our name out there."

There's a small kitchen as well, "and we or a caterer will design our food menu to fit that," says McCowan.

If all goes as planned, Rumours will launch via a soft opening and its grand opening will take place during this year's Pride festivities.

"I really believe that the community is going to get behind this bar and that we're going to be successful! I don't see anything that's going to stop us.

Rumours Cabaret will be at 1668 Lower Water Street, directly across from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

"We don't have social media up for the new bar yet, but will soon.  I think our bar and Wayves Magazine are going to be good friends!"

Editor's Notes