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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A pause for Reflections

The sweatiest dance club on Sackville Street wants one last drunken make-out before moving from its memorable home.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Between DJs and $Rockin’ 4 Dollar$, Reflections provided a dance floor for all walks of life. - CURTIS ROTHNEY & REFLECTIONS CABARET
  • CURTIS ROTHNEY & REFLECTIONS CABARET
  • Between DJs and $Rockin’ 4 Dollar$, Reflections provided a dance floor for all walks of life.

The most memorable events at Reflections Cabaret probably can’t be remembered at all. The nightclub’s dance floor has been the backdrop for the kind of stories that lead prominent politicians to turn down interview requests. While Reflections will soon move from its 18-year home at 5184 Sackville Street, it’ll be hard to say goodbye to those walls so steeped in late-night history.

Drag queen Eureka Love (AKA Tim Humphrey), who now hosts the bar’s Grammy Awards Drag Show, saw her first drag performance at Reflections. “It blew my mind,” she says, “and it was packed. There was only room to sit on the edge of a speaker or a boogie box and if you got up to get a drink you lost it.”

For many, the club was a welcoming place to explore one’s sexuality while dancing up a sweat on Friday night (when students have free cover). Emma Teitel and her best friend found their relationship turning romantic when they had their first kiss on the Reflections’ dance floor. “We always felt comfortable going there when we were coming out, not because it was a gay bar, but because it felt like a safe place for everyone,” she says. “If I could, I would totally get married there.”

Tiffany Spencer found a home four years ago at Reflections for her rockabilly shows. The stylized, retro music and dance nights also feature burlesque performances, which most bars turned down. “It really gives a place where people can feel safe and comfortable and dance to forget about whatever they’re stressed about that day,” says Spencer, who met her fiance at the venue after booking his band.

With its dance-club reputation, Craig Hamlin feels Reflections’ music chops are often overlooked. Hamlin, half of the team behind the weekly $Rockin 4 Dollar$, started working as a waiter in 2001, and a year later was booking bands. “I’m not sure it’s really ever been taken seriously as a live music venue,” he says.

Despite that, the club runs unique nights like Hissyfit, an annual show where bands play in drag. Trevor Murphy, musician and host of Halifax is Burning on CKDU played HissyFit in 2006 with his band, The Establishment.

“Hissyfit was already an institution in Halifax—so we were mostly just excited about having been asked to play the show,” he says. “I distinctly remember all our female friends being giddy with excitement over being able to dress us up and apply their favourite shade of lipstick to our scrappy post-punk trio.”

Hamlin credits owner Mike Shmid with supporting live music in Halifax. “The number-one reason I feel there is live music in there is that he’s a big music fan.”

Shmid, who took the bar over from original owner Deb Wilson three years after opening (he was her chartered accountant at the time), says Reflections goes beyond “gay bar” to something “without labels.” That includes prioritizing respect for the customer, starting with security at the door.

“I go up to the security and I give them a hug!” says Rouge Fatale (aka Jason Rose-Spurrell), local drag queen and longtime patron. “It makes me feel good that that’s happening—that they know and they’re showing the respect people deserve.”

Still, upkeep has fallen behind, necessitating the move around the block, into the renovated The Adventure Outfitters’ space. Shmid promises the same black-and-white dance floor, a second level mezzanine with a view off the stage, and thankfully, some new bathrooms. The women’s washroom stalls at Reflections’ current digs have been crooked since Rouge Fatale knocked them down on a particularly drunken evening.

“It’s going to change, but it’s going to change for the better,” says Hamlin. “It’s really gonna provide the impetus with creating a lot of fun.”

Say goodbye to the old space and make some embarrassing memories of your own with a one-dollar cover (free for students) farewell party this Friday, August 15. Reflections will stay open until next month’s scheduled move.

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