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Fire destroys downtown building that housed Milla Pub, Club 70


The building that once housed Edmonton’s Milla Pub and the city’s first gay bar was destroyed in a fire overnight.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Service was still on scene in the early hours of Wednesday. Firefighters watched for hot spots, while a track hoe tore down what was left of the smouldering building.

Firefighters were called to the scene, at 106 Avenue and 101 Street, just before 10:30 p.m. by a passerby who spotted flames, EFRS told CTV News Edmonton.

In total, nine fire trucks responded. Firefighters brought the flames under control before 1:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.


The building, built in 1943, used to house Milla Pub and the city’s first gay bar, Club 70.

"It was the first place that the gay and lesbian community could call their own," said Ron Byers, a queer historian.

The gay bar opened in 1969 when Canada decriminalized homosexuality and was a welcoming space for the queer community.

Its founders wanted to name the club after the year the legislation went through, "but that was deemed too risque for the times," said Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual & Gender Minority Youth.

The location served as a welcoming space for the queer community for eight years. 

"Having these safe spaces, this refuge, away from violence and discrimination was critical in helping to build the LGBTQ community that we know today," Wells said. 


More recently, however, locals say the boarded-up building -- at one point zoned for residential units -- had become a hub of crime and drug activity. 


Sheena Hermanson, business manager at nearby Stainless Dreams Ltd., says she and her colleagues have been assaulted and seen body bags carried out of the area by police. 

Hermanson told CTV News Edmonton she's sympathetic to the issues of addiction, but frustrated the neighbourhood hasn't been made safer. 

"For our neighbourhood and trying to run a business down here, it's been a bit of a plague on us." 

Several blocks in the area were closed early Wednesday for firefighters to work; downtown commuters were asked to find alternate routes.
Fire investigators returned during the day to determine a cause and whether the blaze was criminal. Top Stories

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