166B - The B - La Réception

The B, as it was often called by regulars, was just around the corner from the Lord Elgin Hotel, which had just unceremoniously abandoned the queer clientele it had for years in the basement bar and 1st floor 'library' tavern in about 1981.

Some of the (straight) bartenders who loved their gay clients decided to open up a gay bar, the first of its kind in Ottawa, recognizing they had a large and otherwise ignored customer base to cater to.

It wasn't a particularly nice bar... we've heard more than a few folks describe it as a dump, but it was a space we could call our own at a time when other bars only tolerated us or hated us but took our money anyway.

A former employee of the 166B had this amazing and interesting story to say:

"I worked [at the 166B] for 7.5 years. I started in 1984. Back then, this was a popular spot in Ottawa (CP was not open at that time) You would enter by the side door going to a long hallway to enter the middle part of the bar. In the back it was a pool table, pinball machines and a piano bar (Fridays/Saturdays) with a bar in the back. The front was the main bar with a jukebox and small parquet dance floor.

"Friday and Saturday nights, it was packed. We had two waiters from the Lord Elgin who worked there (they did not own the bar but approached the restaurant owners to use the reception hall as a gay bar). It was a success. So busy we had three busboys on these nights including myself (who worked my way up as barman).

"After a few years, the jukebox was no more and we were using cassette tapes with dance music. Then after a couple of years we had a DJ, but a poor light system.

This was the home of the Ottawa Knights until they moved on to CP (Centretown Pub). All the years I worked there it was a busy spot. We had what was called a meat rack (stand-up counter by the side wall). 166B hosted many special nights that filled the place up. Lingered in smoke back then. Quarts were cheap and were a big seller. After time though people stopped going due to lack of repairs, Dirty bathroom etc. The crowds felt they were not getting anything back for their money they have spent there over the years and moved on to the newly opened CP, Shades etc. The new owner did not want to put any more money into the place even though when owned by his parents they did the opposite. The back piano bar was mostly the older crowd, also known back then where the male hookers would hang out.

"The bar had two fires that were set by customers, one who was barred for life returned after closing and set the side stairs on fire, Another set a fire in the men's bathrooms (that I managed to turn it out)."

If you know more details about this place, please email info@bankstreet.ca to share dates, facts, images or more.



166B Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, ON K1P 5J2