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El Convento Rico turns 30

El Convento Rico is a nightclub with Latin music and drag performance in the heart of Little Italy.

The night starts with dancing and moves to a 30 minute drag show before moving back to dancing long after last call.

It’s a hotbed of Latino/Latina queer culture, and now El Convento Rico is marking its 30th anniversary. This is a huge milestone because Toronto wasn’t always welcoming to its guests.

The club opened at 750 College Street in 1992 and had been a target of violence. Its Latin and salsa music paired with other programming persevered and its clientele not only did not shy away, it diversified to shape a celebrated venue known as a safe space.

Drag came into the picture a few years in. It was a business-generating measure that even today remains a key part of its draw.

Staff members and performers agree its success lies in the hands of businesswoman Yumbla; her value in diversity, and knowing how to fight and work hard. The Ecuador-born Yumbla once wanted to be a nun, so El Convento Rico is her convent and her staff often call her Mother Superior.

“Maritza created the formula and it worked and she stuck with it,” says Jason Pelletier, a drag queen who performs as Jezebel Bardot. “(Our clientele) is inclusive for BIPOC communities, including Black, Latino, Sikh and Indian. Many trans people come. It is also inclusive of age … It is in my opinion the most inclusive bar that I’ve worked in.”

The pandemic hit the restaurant and nightlife scene hard, but El Convento Rico persevered. It temporarily converted to a small cabaret lounge as restrictions allowed. When doors opened at 12:01 a.m. on July 16, 2021 as the province moved to Stage 3, allowing for more capacity and guests to dance, they packed the house. It was clear guests needed to be there.

Source: The Record

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