Champs Montreal sports bar lesbians

Champs is the oldest, newest happening spot on St-Laurent Boulevard

The longstanding bar has evolved into a go-to for the LGBTQ2S+ community as well as being a destination for Montreal sports fans.

For years, Champs sports bar on St-Laurent was known as a place to watch the game… and not much else.

The watering hole, located above Blue Dog and Barbossa, was in limbo even prior to the pandemic, but since last fall has been reborn under new ownership as a sorely needed LGBTQ2S+ bar in the area. Now it’s the oldest, newest happening spot on Main. And with a solid wine list, unlike most sports bars.

Sports are still front and centre, made clear by the “SPORTS LESBIANS” illuminated signs that greet anyone who makes it up the stairs. Most importantly, it’s an easygoing, inclusive place to hang out and stew about your favourite team’s successes and failures.

“One of the owners is a good friend of mine and said they didn’t want to have just a bunch of dudes in charge,” said co-owner Sarah Fobes, a long-time sports writer who knows a thing or two about sports bars. “I told them, as long as you don’t mind that I’m probably going to make it as queer as possible — and a space where women and queer people feel as safe as possible.”

Fobes said things really took off for the new format when actress/costume designer Kayleigh Choiniere and musician Mint Bensimon (of Caveboy and Mint Simon fame) came aboard to host and present Saturgays.

“I brought all my queer friends for the soft launch right before everything shut down again,” said Choiniere. “It all kinda happened on a whim. We’re in our 30s and 40s. We came out of the pandemic and there’s nowhere to dance that we like, and we felt old and tired.”

After a trip to Alan Cumming’s bar in New York, it dawned on them there isn’t much in Montreal catering to “gay afternoon life,” i.e. somewhere to hang where you’re also able to dip and head home at a reasonable hour. Queer afternoon dance parties mean having fun without staying out late.

Where Champs 2.0 also differs from its previous incarnation is the inclusion of a different but equally worthy sport: RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show’s passionate fan base watches it like it’s the Olympics, so the weekly institution is perfect for watching at a bar among friends.

Champs has since added Kiki balls and Money Shot queer amateur strip competitions, and the possibilities for future events seems endless in the malleable space, which also has a promising private room in the back.

Naturally, they had their fair share of surprised sports bros enter the establishment, but the response has been positive. Anyone’s welcome as long as they respect the space and the people in it.

“For one thing, you can’t really miss the Sports Lesbians signs. They’re quite neon and draw your eye right as you enter. We’ve seen them become Instagrammable,” said Fobes.

“When we started hosting Drag Race,” said Bensimon, “my favourite was when the bros would walk into Champs and see two giant queens sitting in front with RuPaul on all the screens. First they’re wondering if they’re in the right place, but then they ended up staying and saying it’s a fun sporting event.” ■

Champs is the oldest, newest happening spot on St-Laurent Boulevard

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of Cult MTL.

For more on Champs (3956 St-Laurent, 2nd floor), please see their Instagram.

For more Montreal nightlife coverage, please visit the Music section.