July, 2013 / Author:

Opera Ultralounge launches LGBT* night where Club Desire once lived

The address of 441 Main Street is a place of nostalgia for members of the LGBT* community. The architecturally astonishing Imperial Bank of Canada building was home to Club Desire for about five years. The gay bar was so popular that it became a hotspot for straight club-goers, who eventually took over the scene before it closed in 2009. After a couple of short-lived nightclubs came and went, Opera Ultralounge opened in late 2011.

With all-white decor, large chandeliers, and a strict dress code, Opera originally targeted an older crowd. Ryan Wibawa, one of Opera’s six owners, said, “it was meant to be an ultralounge for people who would book booths and then spend on bottles and stuff.” When the owners didn’t think they had that clientele here, the dress code was eliminated to reach a larger audience.

Even though Opera was an LGBT*-friendly venue, the LGBT* community had not been specifically targeted. Being a part of the community himself, Wibawa decided it was time to expand. “We were only open three nights a week, so I told the management I was interested in opening a fourth night for the LGBT* community,” said Wibawa. He brought up the idea about a year ago, but Opera decided to wait until they were more established.

After Gio’s had closed, Wibawa thought it was the perfect time to introduce Taboo Thursdays at Opera. “I wanted to bring a new venue for the LGBT* community because Fame and Club 200 were the only ones. The community was complaining that they didn’t have other options,” said Wibawa. Taboo Thursdays kicked off in June and “feedback has been positive. So far, people are happy that they have another venue and atmosphere.”

Opera is the only non-gay Winnipeg bar that currently has a night designated to the LGBT* community. Brett Owen, a dancer and active community member, said he had a good time at the opening of Taboo Thursdays and hopes it leads to other venues hosting LGBT* nights.

For LGBT* people who prefer going out on a weekday, options can be limited. “Not everyone works a Monday- to-Friday schedule,” said Owen. “It’s sad that we don’t always feel safe in ‘straight’ bars, but it’s the truth.”

Owen was happy to hear Taboo Thursdays will be ongoing and isn’t just limited to the summer. Wibawa said Opera plans to bring in future entertainment, such as porn stars or drag queens from ”Rupaul’s Drag Race.” “We only have one night a week, so we want to keep it new and shuffle it all the time,” said Wibawa. “We also want to become more involved in the community.”

Taboo Thursdays takes over Opera Ultralounge every Thursday. More information can be found at www.operaultralounge.com. 

Have you gone? Tweet us at @OutWords to tell us what you thought!


– Graeme Coleman is the entertainment editor for OutWords.

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