Friends of Dorothy
Friends of Dorothy is Victoria’s premier LGBT2Q+ lounge located on Johnson Street near Market Square. The “Louis XIV meets punk chic” atmosphere is the perfect combination of elegance and comfort. Everyone is welcome at Dorothy’s, whether you are part of the queer community or an ally! The owner, Rudy Tomazic, wanted to create a space that is accepting to all who venture down the yellow brick road.
What is your background?
“My background is, I’ve been in the real estate development, marketing, for most of my life, my career since university, at multiple different levels from condo-hotels to residential communities to retirement communities to resort-type settings – Spirit Ridge and Osoyoos, things like that. I’ve always done and built and developed and sold and marketed. And now it’s the restaurant business is my newest background.”
What made you want to open your business?
“Being a queer man, or identifying as a queer man, and living in the Okanagan, I find that when I want to go out or do something, have dinner or a snack or a cocktail or something, it was very limited options. I think, this opens up a lot of different can of worms for people, but in the queer world or the LGBT2Q+ or whatever you identify as, people have come at me and said, “Why do you need your own space? You don’t need your own space. Why do you guys need to have your own safe space because of where we live today?” Although we’ve come a long way in the world, I think we have a lot further to go still on many different levels. And I believe that when you look at a space like this, it’s …. So if I was with a man, and we were sitting at any brand restaurant, having a cocktail, having a drink, and I reached across the table and we held hands, that would garner some looks from some people who are not comfortable with that in that setting. That would make me uncomfortable, as well make them uncomfortable, and people around. Although I don’t think I would get beat up or attacked. But it makes me uncomfortable.
“When you look at a space like Dorothy’s, it’s accepting. And it’s accepting for everyone, including allies. So, you know, we talk about allies, we talk about people from all different walks of life. And it doesn’t matter, when you come into a queer space, you know you might see two guys, three guys, two girls, one guy, you don’t know what you’re going to see but you expect the unexpected and you don’t judge. There’s zero judgment.”
What makes your business special?
“I think about how it makes me feel when I see people in the space. Actually, I heard it best yesterday from one of the trades that worked in the space here, he was the artist, him and his sister, did all the painting, all the hand-painting. They’re local, they live in Victoria. They are not part of the LGBT2Q+ community, they are allies for sure. He said to me yesterday, he was in doing some touch-ups, he said and he stopped me, and as all artists are sometimes high-maintenance, all say it that way. I expected him to say something like, “Oh, Rudy, I wish it was like this or I wish it was like that, or we could’ve changed this.” He said, “I want to talk to you.” And I said, “Okay.” And he said, “I have to tell you when I walk in this place, now that you’ve got it furnished and done and music and decorated, I feel like nothing else in the world matters, and all the problems in the world are gone.” That tells you what makes it special. When somebody tells you that, it makes it special.”
What inspires you?
“I think what inspires me is to always be challenged and to always have a challenge and something else to move up to and people hold me accountable to. Seeing people happy, having challenges, having the usual things that happen in a restaurant, finding new ways to even operate during COVID, that inspires me. Because, during COVID, we’re finding new ways to run our businesses and make them successful and to stay within the rules and keep everyone safe. So challenges inspire me for sure.”
“Why not? I guess, location was important and when I was looking for a location, I had some great people around me that helped me find it. I think that, one of the reasons I like this space, there’s a few, just because it’s a queer bar doesn’t mean it needs to be hidden in an alley or in a basement or, no pun intended to anybody, but a lot of the places, in queer venues or establishments, signs have always been little and it’s not out there. And this is going to become a statement in Canada and I’ll continue to go across the country with it. Why is it in Downtown Victoria? Visibility, accessibility, foot traffic, great parking close by, great people in businesses around, and lots of diversity.”
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business?
“Follow your gut. Don’t make a Plan B; adapt and evolve. That’s the best advice I can give someone.”
How to find Friends of Dorothy:
Friends of Dorothy is located at 537 Johnson Street, across the street from Market Square. They can be reached by phone at 778-432-4565 and by email at email@example.com. You can find them on their website, on Facebook, and on Instagram!