D-Beatstro stands out in Toronto’s Bloordale neighbourhood, but it would stand out anywhere.
That’s the idea behind this self-described DIT (Do It Together) community hub hosting everything from all-ages punk gigs to pop-up markets, movie nights, workshops, community discussions, and anything else they can come up with. Their unlikeliest activities include punk yoga classes (giving metal yoga a run for its money) along with the Mana-tapping throwback of Magic: The Gathering tournaments.
Inclusivity is the name of the game for co-owners Jess Montebello and Erika Supply, who have turned the former home of Bike Pirates on Bloor and Landsdowne into a physically accessible space with gender neutral bathrooms. They proudly serve up locally roasted coffee alongside a 100% vegan menu. In the wake of the horrific incident that recently occurred at a Chokehold show in Toronto it’s clear that the education provided by positive spaces such as D-Beatstro remain vitally important.
I sat down with Montebello over a tasty iced coffee for a quick set of questions.
When did D-Beatstro officially open?
We did our soft launch in May and the grand opening was the last weekend in June. We took our time getting things together. It keeps getting busier but at the same time July is one of the worst months for cafes and restaurants in Toronto. That’s a bit disheartening but our events have been great.
What kinds of events have you hosted so far?
We do lots of live music, pop-up markets with local artists, and monthly art shows. One of our first events was the Shameless Magazine launch, and we’ve got the Toronto queer zine fair in the first weekend of August. This Thursday we’re doing a Magic: The Gathering tournament. It’s a fun and casual way to get involved because you don’t need to bring your own cards. The money you pay includes the cards you play with.
What are you primary values and goals?
To provide a space for marginalized folks. There are a lot of people in this community who don’t have a space to showcase what they’re good at. We try to provide wall space for people who wouldn’t have an opportunity to do an art show in Toronto, and I think that’s a big deal. It’s the same for bands and our pop-up shops. The shop is physically accessible and we try really hard to be as financially accessible as we can. Food security is important to us and we want to make sure people can afford the things we make.
What are some highlights of your menu?
The Hail Seitan Club. It’s probably our most popular option. Erika makes pretty much everything from scratch, and she makes the best vegan mayo I’ve ever had. The sandwich comes with a roast turkey style seitan, coconut bacon, lettuce and tomato. It’s pretty classic. We launched a reuben sandwich last week with sauerkraut and our own Russian-style dressing, so that’s pretty popular too.
How do you find the neighbourhood so far?
We really like this neighbourhood. It’s funny because it’s been dubbed ‘Vegan Row’ with all of the vegan restaurants that have popped up. We’re across the street from Through Being Cool, then there’s Hogtown Vegan, Bloomer’s, and Apiecalypse is further east.
What kinds of records, books, and zines do you have in your distro?
We’re still growing and just brought out our records last week. Right now it’s the home of Hangover Distro, which Erika runs to sell a whole bunch of punk and hardcore records. We’re opening it up to allow local bands to drop off their releases as another way to give back to the community. There are a handful of cassettes as well.
You mentioned in another interview that much of the shop’s furniture and equipment were going to be “curb-dived.” How much of it came from the street?
Most of it! [laughs] As you can see, our bar is made out of milk crates. All of the tables are from the street, and we found a bar fridge. Someone was throwing out a perfectly good fridge! Other community members have helped us out as well. Apiecalypse gave us our display fridge, and Sadie’s Diner gave us some fridges and sinks. Alex Wilson from Atelier One Five helped us out with the carpentry as well. He made the bar top for us from a fallen ash tree.
What else do you have coming up this summer?
We just brought on two new team members last week. Katie is an aromatherapist who has studied nutrition, while Chris is a Red Seal chef who will help us launch our brunch menu. We haven’t told anyone else about that yet, but we’re hoping to start offering weekend brunch in September. If we tell people, we have to do it!
Up until now, it’s just been Erika and I working really long days to keep things going. With this extra manpower we can start focusing on the things we really want to do, like turning the basement into an art studio. We also got a t-shirt press and are going to start a community silkscreening studio. We have time to do that now.
How often do you have music events?
This week we have four days of events with some queer Montreal bands, noise-punk bands, and this weekend is our pop-up market. We’re going to try to keep that level of activity going, and Katie will also be leading our weekly punk yoga class. That’s going to happen every Tuesday where we play punk music and people do yoga.
How does entry work for these events?
For the most part we try to make sure no one is turned away for a lack of funds, but in the end it’s up to the promoter’s discretion on their ticket price. When you have touring bands they need to get paid. All of the events are all ages though. We don’t host 19+ events.
Following the incident at the Chokehold show, it reinforces the need for inclusive spaces like this as well as the education they can provide. Do you think things would have gone differently if it would have occurred here?
I think it would have gone exactly the same way. Someone would have spoken out, and I think the audience member’s reaction was totally valid. I would hope the violence wouldn’t happen, but I’m proud that we live in a community where people are aware and willing to stand up when someone says something that’s not OK. That’s part of what we intend to do here. One of the first events we hosted was a community discussion on responsibility and accountability. The whole idea is creating dialogue.