Halifax finally has another 2SLGBTQ+ bar. It's named after one that broke barriers

Rumours, a new queer nightclub in Halifax, is celebrating its grand opening — nearly three decades after the iconic bar it's named for closed its doors.

"I used to go to Rumours," said Gerald Mccowan, the owner of Rumours 2.0, who operates the bar with his husband, José Chiu. "There's a lot of nostalgia over that name."

The new bar is not affiliated with the pioneering club, which was operated by the Gay and Lesbian Association of Nova Scotia from 1982 to 1995, but aims to be a similarly central place for queer people.

Mccowan says he hopes it fills a void that's been keenly felt since the closure of Reflections Cabaret, Menz and Mollyz bar and Indulge Nightclub left the city with no remaining bars that catered predominantly to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Gerald Mccowan owns Rumours and operates the business with his husband José Chiu (right).
Gerald Mccowan, left, owns Rumours and operates the business with his husband, José Chiu. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

The old Rumours, which was first located on Granville Street before moving to the old Vogue Theatre on Gottingen Street, was one of the first gay bars Mccowan visited when he was coming out in 1989.

Mccowan was in the army reserves back then and working at Windsor Park. 

He had to conceal his sexual identity at work, not only for fear of harassment or discrimination, but because he'd lose his job if the Canadian Armed Forces found out.

But after a week in the straight world, he'd shake off the cobwebs, kick down the closet door and head downtown to dance.

"It was a safe space," Mccowan said. "I could go in and be myself."

The old Rumours bar on Gottingen Street can be seen in this still from a home video, taken during the 1994 Halifax Pride Parade.
The old Rumours bar on Gottingen Street can be seen in this still from a home video, taken during the 1994 Halifax Pride Parade. (Halifax Rainbow Encyclopedia)

At a time when homophobia was rampant, Rumours offered that same feeling to so many others, said Lynn Murphy, a former chair of the gay and lesbian association and a member of the organization's civil rights committee.

"You could be fired from your job," she said. "You could be kicked out by your landlord. There was a lot of social negativity toward gay people and if you did go out together, you had to be careful not to do anything 'weird' like hold hands because other bars would not put up with that."

Murphy said the old Rumours was unique at the time because it was owned and operated by the community, for the community, as one arm of a wider group aimed at bettering conditions for all queer people.

"It might have been the first place that they ever came to where they could be open," she said.

Couple met at Rumours 32 years ago

It was at the old bar that Mccowan's friends, Tim Currie and Doug Ross, met for the first time.

"I'm down from over Pictou County, down by Trenton, and in that type of area, you weren't gay! You just stayed as far as you could in the closet," said Ross.

Neither was fully out at the time, but both worked up the courage to begin going to Rumours in the early '90s.

"I was scared s—less the first time I walked into the door," said Currie. "You walked up a flight of stairs and there was a bar there, and then when you got past the bar, it's just wall-to-wall men.… I loved it and then they couldn't keep me away."

Doug Ross (left) and Tim Currie fell in love at Rumours in the early '90s.
Doug Ross, left, and Tim Currie fell in love at Rumours in the early '90s. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

One night in 1992, shortly before Halloween, the two of them finally crossed paths, and all these years later, they're still an item.

"He was supposed to be a one-night stand — the longest one-night stand I've ever had," said Currie.

Both Currie and Ross are thrilled to have a place to go again to be among the queer community. They said that since the bar has opened, they've reconnected with many old friends, including from the old Rumours days, and met new ones.

There's been a good mix between younger and older people too, both said.

Queer bars still important

Mccowan said there will always be a need for queer bars. even though some have suggested the rise in mainstream acceptance and the ubiquity of online dating and hookup apps have made them less important.

"I thought the same way for years," he said. "But as the world has gone on, it's gotten a little crazier."

Mccowan cited a recent act of violence against a same-sex couple downtown as further evidence that queer bars are still needed.

A poster advertising the old Rumours nightclub on Gottingen Street.
A poster advertises the first Rumours, one of Halifax's earliest gay and lesbian bars. (Halifax Rainbow Encyclopedia)

In a news release Friday, Halifax Regional Police said they are still investigating the incident, but are seeking assistance identifying a group of people involved in the attack.

HRP said there have been 45 reports of criminal offences since 2022 that are "confirmed or suspected to be fully or partially motivated by hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community," and 110 reports of hate-motivated incidents.

"As a community bar now we want to be able to speak up … and say, 'Hey, that's wrong, people, you can't do that.' We want people to know that we're out there and that we're gay and we're good people."

Open 7 days a week

Over time, Mccowan hopes to build his business into a community hub for 2SLGBTQ+ people of all stripes

Already, people have expressed gratitude to him for bringing a queer bar back to Halifax.

"It's incredible, like, I've had hundreds of people hug me … of all generations," said Mccowan.

Rumours plans to be open seven days a week, until midnight Sunday to Thursday and 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

It's not likely to be the only queer bar in town for long, either.  Stardust Bar and Kitchen plans to open on Barrington Street in the coming months.