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Vivian Lynch and her wife, Agnes Lee, opened Yard Sale Bar in the summer of 2019. They noticed that LGBTQ+ bars were disappearing from the city, so during the pandemic, they were inspired to rebrand their business and create an inclusive space of their own. In June, they officially re-opened as Lavender Menace.
Prior to the start of Yard Sale Bar, Lynch and Lee were travelling around Europe. As they were enjoying authentic tapas in Southern Spain, they began pondering on the idea of opening their own food and beverage spot in Toronto. After returning from their trip, they spent two years looking for a space.
Once they established Yard Sale Bar, they ensured that it was an open and accepting space, however, it wasn't explicitly an LGBTQ+ bar. After reminiscing on the times that they have visited other cities and had a gay bar to go to, they wanted to create something similar in Toronto.
"We do what we can to give back to those who have given so much to us,” said Lynch. In other words, Lavender Menace is their form of paying homage to those who have fought and continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and recognition around the world.
Lynch and Lee met in 2013 at a curry party. Agnes had prepared five different curries for her friends to enjoy before they all attended a concert.
"Cooking is Agnes's way of showing love to her friends," Lynch explained. Years later, they are now partners in life and in business.
Lynch grew up just down the road from Lavender Menace, while Agnes is originally from Hong Kong and also lived in Vancouver prior to moving to Toronto in the early 2000s. The 'Original Cha-Cha' cocktail symbolizes Agnes's identity as an immigrant, as it encompasses flavours from her Hong Kong roots.
Lavender Menace's space encompasses the same retro feel from Yard Sale Bar, but they incorporated different elements to create more of a 70s and 80s design. This era is significant to them for a couple of reasons––for starters, the name "Lavender Menace" speaks to a small group of lesbians who fought for recognition in the 70s feminist movement, which is what the bar is named after. Additionally, Lee was born in the 70s, so she has a special connection to that particular era.
When it comes to the menu, they serve a range of dishes influenced by the American South.
"We wanted to serve dishes that are easy to eat, that go well with cocktails, and something that the neighbourhood doesn't have a lot of," Lynch said.
Agnes has experience working in coffee shops, cooking in Asian fusion and training in Italian cuisine. However, she wanted to direct her expertise towards dishes that can be accessible to everyone.
The cocktail influence came from Lynch after she spent years workshopping original cocktail recipes. Together, the two traveled around Canada to explore the cocktail scene and observe what people liked so that they could incorporate favourites into their new menu.
Lynch's personal favourite is the the bar's namesake "Lavender Menace", which is a butterfly pea-infused Georgian Bay gin with house-made creme de violette, sage and elderflower cordial, citrus, lavender, black cherry and egg foam. On the other hand, Lee's favourite is the Sukeban, which was on the menu at their previous bar. Agnes sourced all the ingredients for this cocktail, and it includes toki Japanese whiskey, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, plum wine, shaman liqueur quebecois, bitters and hickory smoke.
Future plans include creating seasonal menus and introducing a fuller menu once more COVID restrictions are lifted. Lavender Menace is located at 1062 Gerrard Street East in Leslieville and is open from Wednesday to Sunday with hours ranging between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m.