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Legendary Vancouver restaurant becomes 'diner by day, drag lounge by night'

"Drag is not only a lot of fun, but it is [also] important"
Mary's on Davie, the long-time globally inclusive restaurant in Vancouver's Davie Village, has started doing regular drag shows multiple times a week. The first weekend included local performer Beth.

A long-time icon of Vancouver's Davie Village, Mary's on Davie (formerly Hamburger Mary's) is evolving.

As a part of that, the legendary diner now presents drag nights every weekend, on Fridays and Saturdays, giving performers and fans a regular place to catch shows. The first shows happened on Jan. 27 and 28.

"Drag is not only a lot of fun, but it is [also] important. Drag performers are leaders in our community and have done so much good for so many causes and that aligns with our beliefs," Mary's Diner co-owner Rachel Christensen tells Vancouver Is Awesome in an email.

"Since 1979, Hamburger Mary’s has supported the marginalized and we are committed to continue in doing so."

To that end, she's coined a phrase, calling Mary's "Canada’s longest-standing globally-inclusive restaurant."

"'Globally inclusive' means come as you are, we love you, and you will find people who love you at Mary’s," she explains. "Show us who you are, show us all your stripes, and we will love and support this."

While the result is splashy shows (and a new drinks menu with "boozy shakes" and cocktails), what made them possible was a new, substantially less colourful provincial policy.

"The latest piece that truly helped spur on the evolution [of Mary's] was being granted the seventh Dual Liquor License in Vancouver," Christensen adds.

That new license means the long-time diner can flip to a drag venue in the evenings.

"With the latest good news of the dual license, we felt it would be wise to take advantage of this and become a 'Diner by Day, Drag Lounge by Night,'" Christensen explains.

CEBA and the pandemic slow things down, add stress

Her team, which took over the restaurant in 2018, wanted to do something like this for a while, but the pandemic slowed things down and is still affecting operations to this day, thanks to CEBA loan repayments.

"Many businesses, including us, are struggling," Christensen writes. "It was coincidental that the launch of our rebrand happened in the same week as the CEBA deadline, but we want to inspire other businesses to be the best version of themselves AND to let the press and members of the government know we’re not done with the effects of the pandemic quite yet."

She says while the vibrant restaurant has a sunny disposition, there's stress behind the scenes, which is felt across the industry and beyond.

"Our job is to put on a good face. Unfortunately, behind the scenes, it’s not so pretty," she elaborates. "And I’m not just speaking for myself. All business owners are working harder than ever to just put food on the table." Christensen adds that between the owners of Mary's on Davie, there are nine children to care for at their homes. 

She says she hopes adding regular drag events will be one way to encourage people to go out to local establishments instead of staying home to watch Netflix.