Gio’s Club and Bar closing after 31 years
Published Sunday, February 10, 2013 11:04AM CST
Last Updated Sunday, February 10, 2013 5:31PM CST
Gio’s Club and Bar will be closing its doors on February 16, 2013, after operating for 31 years in Winnipeg, citing financial difficulty.
Gio’s became a second home for long-time staff member Harvey Johnson. For over 20 years, he socialized and worked at the bar part time. Now he’ll have to say goodbye to the venue.
“Meeting people is very important. It keeps people off the street,” he said.
“People come here to enjoy themselves. Sit down, relax, mingle. Have a few drinks and go back home for a memory.”
Barry Karlenzig, the bar’s general manager, says they were already looking for a new venue due to their lease expiring in less than a year.
Staff said there were a number of changes causing the need to close. Social networking has changed the way people meet each other. Competition has also put a dent in the crowds.
“We have people stepping up where they need to be if we're short bar staff. I'll step up as a bartender. One of our other staff will step up. We’ve cut advertising. We’ve cut anything we possibly could,” said Karlenzig.
As one of Winnipeg’s first gay bars, it’s been a place for the community to let loose without fear or judgment.
Patrons could buy a brick in the venue and share their memories. The owner of the building said he has plans to demolish it. Karlenzig says those bricks won’t be gone forever when the building gets torn down.
“When they actually do the final demolition, if people want their bricks, they have the ability to come and get it,” he said.
Many businesses in Winnipeg have been shutting down as of late. In the past year, a number of long-running businesses have closed their doors, including Kelekis Restaurant and the Paddlewheel Restaurant earlier this year.
Shae Kusyk, a DJ for Gio’s, says the closure was inevitable. “It feels horribly depressing, and it’s not just venues. It’s been a bunch of small community businesses. I think it’s been really scary.”
Staff are looking for a new home for the club.
Patron Cody Smith hopes it will have the same atmosphere as the old location. “I’ve only known this location,” he said, “so going to another place will be weird. It will take time to adjust.”
Gio’s will host a number of events this week before shutting the doors, including a closing bash on Saturday.
The bar, located at 166 Smith St., was well-known for its embracement of the GLBT community in Winnipeg. Photo courtesy Brent Young.