An LGBTQ pop-up with new operators is scheduled to operate within Chez Ann, the Little Italy restaurant that drew attention for a dramatic Chinese New Years dinner last month.
Update (March 7): The pop-up has since been canceled.
The new venue, Ellas, will take over the premises on St-Laurent later this week, principal Ella Webber told Eater March 5.
“We literally ran in last week and scrubbed the place and were like ‘let’s go’.”
Though Ella appeared to be a replacement for Chez Ann, representatives for both the pop-up and Chez Ann have since reached out to Eater to say the restaurant does not plan to permanently close.
The original tenant was the centre of controversy in February after a pop-up Chinese New Year dinner went off the rails, with owner Kimberly Houston allegedly throwing food at a visiting chef and berating guests after one table brought their own alcohol to the event (which was not BYOB). At the time, Houston said many people illegally brought their own alcohol, however, multiple guests and staff contested that version of events.
The new pop-up is named for Webber, who is running it in conjunction with their partner Kalale — on Facebook, they write that they’re committed to making the space “the safest and best it can be”.
Ellas is set to be a short-term venue, likely only open for three months due to the nature of the lease — Webber tells Eater it will be a hybrid space, serving food and drinks, but also as a dedicated place for queer community events (which sometimes end up popping up at miscellaneous, non-LGBTQ venues around town).
“A lot of spaces have closed down, like the Royal Phoenix and Cabaret Playhouse, and Le Cagibi is smaller now [and unable to host shows], so we’re trying to fill that need in the community at large.”
Those events might include drag nights (one is scheduled for March 22), weekly karaoke nights, and themed cabaret-slash-masquerade type events.
A full menu will be in place by later in March with hot sandwiches and other fresh items, and in the meantime, Ellas will serve up fries. It’ll also have natural beers on tap, natural wines, but some cheap options too.
“We want to make sure it’s affordable but also has some nice things,” says Webber.
STATUS — Ellas will be open at 6568 St-Laurent starting Thursday (March 7) from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Update (March 6 at 10:42 a.m.): The role of the restaurant’s new operators has been clarified.
Update (March 7 at 11:47 a.m.): The story has been updated to reflect comments from the restaurant owner and pop-up owner stating that Chez Ann is not permanently closed.