A central Edmonton pub notorious for its rundown atmosphere went up in flames overnight.
The fire at Milla Pub on 101 Street near 106 Avenue was reported to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, when someone who spotted the flames called 911.
Crews arrived a minute later and several firefighting units were called in to deal with the blaze.
Flames and heavy smoke were visible for some time as crews tried to get control the blaze, but the building was gutted.
The fire was brought under control just before 1:30 a.m. but crews remained on scene most of the morning putting out hot spots.
Equipment was brought in overnight to tear down what now remains of the building, which has been closed and boarded up for a few years.
By 9 a.m., the building was levelled to the ground.
Milla Pub in the McCauley neighbourhood was built in 1943, according to the City of Edmonton’s website, and a demolition permit had been issued for it in August 2020.
In recent years before it closed, people who live and work in the area — including members of the McCauley Community League — said it was a problem property that attracted drugs, violence and crime.
Former city councillor and LGBTQ+ advocate Michael Phair said after homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada, a group of men and women in Edmonton formed a club and decided to open a space just for gay people.
“You had to sign in. Someone checked if you were a member. You had to be gay or lesbian. If you weren’t they wouldn’t let you in,” Phair said.
“One of the lists have been saved. It’s actually in the city archives… Most of the names are fake names.
“I was astounded that the list had 300 names on it. I was absolutely blown away. I had no idea that it had been able to attract that number of people here in the city,” Phair, who was Edmonton’s first openly gay city councillor, said.
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Club 70 opened in late 1969 in the building’s basement, but the city said the venture was very short-lived. Phair thinks it was about six weeks.
“When the landlord found out that gay people were using his building, he promptly put locks on the doors and denied further entry. This left the founders, driven by its initial success, on the hunt for another location,” an ECAMP post said.
“They settled on an old automotive shop located at 10242 – 106 Street. This spot would remain an establishment for the LGBTQ community until the building was finally sold to Latitude 53 Gallery in 2012.”
Phair says the club in Milla Pub represents an important part of Edmonton’s history.
“It was the first time there was a space like that — a social space where you could go and be yourself.
“It has a sense of history and place for Edmonton’s gay and lesbian community that’s really very important and very significant. It was the first place in the general public that you could be yourself.”
No one was injured in the blaze.
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News