Prism, Edmonton’s only lesbian bar, has gone through a lot of positive changes in the last month. New owners Tracy Smith and Deborah Chymyshyn have put their best efforts forward to take the establishment in an even more inclusive and community oriented direction.
June 1st was the takeover date, and the change became apparent immediately as Prism hosted and catered the ISCWR’s Victory Brunch, to rave reviews from those in attendance. They closed the bar down quickly thereafter for the beginnings of a renovation project. Though they reopened again on June 6th, they will likely continue renovations after the summer months.
While the bar retained its basic layout, a new hardwood dance floor was installed with an expanded DJ booth, and a new coat of paint on the walls. ”The bathrooms have been re-vamped and we added a lot of new lighting for the dance floor,” Tracy told us. ”After the summer we’re planning on renovating the kitchen and acquiring some new equipment so we can re-vamp the menu.”
Meanwhile, the area surrounding the bar is also under a great deal of redevelopment. The city has plans to erect five high-rises and two sky scrapers, including an Epcor tower directly across the street. The site is also part of the proposed LRT expansion.
“This area will look awfully different in two or three years. We can’t wait,” Tracy comments. Her partner Deborah adds, ”We want to make this a safe place for everybody.” In fact, according to them, the Edmonton City Police have increased patrols and are cracking down on crime in the neighborhood.
One of their largest concerns is regarding a common trait in the smaller prairie queer communities – that of internal division. Divisive factors such as cliques, bar politics, and even geographic distance, have created difficulties for both Calgary and Edmonton to find unity. Our cities often look enviously to Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, that have larger GLBT populations and more visible and unified queer communities.
But the new owners of Prism believe one of the key elements in creating a stronger community is willingness of groups and businesses to offer services and events that appeal to the community as a whole. Tracy and Deborah hoping to cultivate this kind of holistic participation, starting at home in Prism.
”The goal is to turn it around a bit, and create a supportive network consisting of a diverse part of the community working together,” says Tracy.
Sitting on both the Edmonton Rainbow Business Association (ERBA), and holding responsibilities organizing GLBT sports and recreation for Team Edmonton, Deborah wears many hats in the community. Both women work with Womonspace, a non-profit social and recreational society in Edmonton. These partnerships are starting to bring a handful of Edmonton queer organizations together, as they find ways of bringing mutually beneficial events to the bar
In the past Prism had been the source for drag kings such as Alberta Beef, Friday night DJ’s, as well as Free Pool and Karaoke on Wednesdays. These favorites will be returning with a number of other new forms of entertainment. “We want to keep the bar running and make it more successful than it’s ever been, by increasing advertising and bringing in more live entertainment,” says Tracy.
Indeed, the Live Entertainment started a week after the grand re-opening, with an in-house performance by Smith on Sunday and Canada’s own Kate Reid, followed the next week by Barley Wik, a grass roots all girl band from Saskatchewan.
There are several special events being planned for the summer, beginning with theme nights such as Mexican Fiesta, and Pole Dancing. ”Pole B Dancing is coming in and they also run salsa dancing lessons, which we may offer with the Mexican Fiesta Night.”
Early august promises to bring the laughs with a Fringe pre-show from an up and coming New York comedian. Then, on August 23rd, Smith on Sunday returns to rock the house.
So take the time this summer to see what’s shaking at Prism. Bust a move on the new dance floor, sample from the wonderful kitchen, relax with some buddies…and pick up a team Edmonton hoodie while you’re at it!
Prism Bar & Grill
10524 101st Street, Edmonton