Treble Lounge: Drag, Laughs, and Rock and Roll- The Rebranding of Valhalla Tavern
This little bar, settled in the corner of Holdsworth Court, may seem plain to the naked eye, but beyond their door lives a home of inclusivity and comfort. Treble Lounge, formerly known as Valhalla Tavern, was a home for rock and rollers and metalheads to play and perform to their heart's content. While it still upholds these original values, they have now expanded their outreach to allow a widespread group of people to come and enjoy their bar. All including a special connection to the LGBTQ+ community.
Chris Carter, co-owner of Treble Lounge, told The Racket via e-mail that their motto simply is “be excellent to each other”, and actually influenced their rebranding. The bar, that is known to host metal bands, was evolving to also host musical acts from all genres, comedy shows, fundraiser events, drag shows, and even all-age events so the whole family could come and enjoy a show.
Because of this new life for the bar, Carter said, “the bar really needed to shed that [old] identity and embrace one that is true to form”. The decision to rebrand allowed the owners to stick to their roots, while also creating a safe place for a much more diverse group of people.
Not many bars downtown are centered around the LGBTQ+ community, and some places can feel like an uncomfortable and unsafe place for them. Carter knew that with this rebranding, there had to be a strong emphasis on the LGBTQ+ community, and a goal to help make them feel comfortable in the downtown setting.
“Becoming a safe inclusive space for the LGBTQ+ community was just part of the ethics and injustice we were seeing” explained Carter. They started hosting Ru Paul’s Drag Race events every Thursday night with St. John’s own drag sensation Irma Gerd, and then progressed to having full on drag shows on any given weekend.
The owners even chose to make their bathrooms gender neutral, which is not something you will see in many bars on George Street. When asked why it is important to create this safe space, Chris responded with “human %$&*ing decency”. “The culture in our bar was created by those who came, saw, and claimed it as their bar. We have a responsibility to provide a safe place for those that come here and maybe the fact that we actually do resonates with people, It’s a very accepting place.” By shedding the heavy metal appearance, Treble Lounge becomes more inviting for those who may have questioned going in before.
The owners of Treble Lounge make sure that everyone in their bar is safe and comfortable, no matter what their background may be; this includes being able to get home safely. Treble Lounge is one of the few bars in St. John’s that offers an out for patrons if they feel the need. A special shot can be ordered at the bar, which lets the bartenders know that you do not feel safe with someone in the establishment, either on a date or other, and you need someone to call you a cab. The name of the shot is visible for patrons who need to utilize this service and the owners of Treble change change it up from month to month so that people do not become privy to the information. This creates a safe escape for those who need to leave when it may not be easy to otherwise and makes this not obvious to other parties. This is an important feature that is emerging in the downtown scene, which aims to reduce or to prevent sexual assault or harassment in clubs and bars.
When it boils down to it, Treble Lounge sets an example to all other bars in St. John’s, and paves the way for a safer George Street experience. Treble Lounge has truly become a home to many people with all different backgrounds, and from all different walks of life. While Valhalla Tavern is no more, Treble Lounge upholds the motto of “be excellent to each other”, along with still blasting out some good rock and roll, and the occasional RuPaul song.
“We truly just want people to feel included, safe, and enjoy themselves. so come draw on the walls, setup your laptop at the bar and do some homework, catch a drag show, a metal show, a comedy show, an open mic, a burlesque show, an awareness night like Fanny Night hosted by Swervy Garland. All we ask is that you wash your hands, be excellent to each other, and share enthusiastic disdain for Coldplay!”
For more information about Treble Lounge, you can like them on Facebook.