As any club-going queer in Ottawa knows, our city’s entire wealth of gay bars lies within the downtown core. However, for those looking to mix things up, there is now a posh alternative on Thursday nights in the east end.
Drag queen Cleo Cheeks hosts Loud and Proud Thursdays at Obsession Bar and Grill, on St Laurent Blvd.
This newly minted Ottawa performer is originally from Toronto and first learned of the stunning locale while shooting an upcoming music video for recording artist Jeremy Merrick.
Cheeks appears in the video as her male self, Nathaniel Carnival. When Cheeks laid her eyes on Obsession’s stylish décor, she saw an opportunity to capitalize on the club's chicness.
“I thought to myself, This is an amazing bar -- I’d love to do drag here. I talked to the owner and asked for the chance to turn this bar gay-friendly on Thursday nights,” Cheeks says. “Now we’re going into our sixth week.”
Cleo Cheeks and Rush'N Noiz cuddle for their close-up.
The establishment is dubbed Ottawa’s only five-star super-bar. With a lit-up service area, glass-paned walls and a large patio, Obsession lives up to this moniker.
DJ Dan Valin
says Ottawa queers should check out Loud and Proud for the excitement of trying out a new bar in addition to its stunning style.
“The décor is unlike any other bar in the city -- bright and sexy. Everything about the night seems fresh and new,” Valin says.
In addition to Cheeks, featured performers have included busty burlesque dancers and Chippendale hunks from New York City. Cheeks has also reached out to fellow Ottawa queens, allotting stage time to the likes of Markida Brown and voluptuous veteran Zelda Marshall
Marshall emphasizes Cheeks' ultra-modern appeal as the main reason Ottawa queers should mark Thursday nights on their calendars.
“You won't miss Flamingo
anymore,” Marshall says. “This is a show hosted by a new drag queen. She clearly enjoys what she does, and she is good at it. Her makeup is great; her choices of costumes are very feminine, so she is clearly off to a great start. It will be a pleasure to watch how she grows as a queen.”
While Cheeks' immaculately made-up face may be new, one familiar visage in Ottawa’s gay scene is DJ Rush'N Noiz, who shares turntable duty with Valin. Usually dressed in a very small amount of leather, Noiz says that although Obsession isn’t a gay bar, the mixed crowd unites every Thursday and the straight patrons revel at the opportunity to be included in the scene.
“The people who come here are accepting of everybody. Straights, gays; everybody mixes very well. More than anything, I think the straights actually enjoy having the fags around. They like to watch Cleo’s performances; for them it’s just nuts. And they look at me, of course,” Noiz says with a laugh.
Cheeks notes the 114 OC Transpo route serves the location from St Laurent Centre or Hurdman Station and runs until after 1am on Thursday nights -- that is, if you ever want to leave.
“Once you come here you’re never going to want to go to other places,” Cheeks says. “The people who come every Thursday and the staff -- everybody is just amazing, and they welcome everyone with open arms.”
Loud and Proud Thursdays
Hosted by Cleo Cheeks
Doors open at 10pm
Obsession Bar and Grill
1575 St Laurent Blvd