“There’s no place like home.”
That’s the vibe Rudy Tomazic had in mind when he opened Friends of Dorothy in January of 2020. Somewhere inviting, warm, and safe for people to be together. Opening during a pandemic might not have been ideal, but the Okanagan’s very first LGBTQ2+ lounge was a success and has since become a special place in Kelowna’s downtown.
The name comes from an important part of queer history. Pre-WW1, when keeping your sexual orientation a secret was the safer option, people would ask “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” as a code for “Are you gay, too?” It was a way to ‘out’ oneself and not have to be worried about violence or discrimination.
Rudy’s vision with Dorothy’s has always been about creating a space where people won’t be judged regardless of their orientations. Whether you come for the LGBTQ2+ scene, the entertainment, or if you just want a place to have brunch and spend time with your friends, everyone is welcome at Friends of Dorothy. A second location has since opened in Victoria, BC.
I asked Rudy what makes his food and cocktails stand out from others and his response was, “My team and head chef Sarah Maw. Her creative mind working in limited space shines through in this powerful food menu and her dedication to providing quality and consistency shows very well. Our cocktail list was primarily created when we first opened but we have added to it and it continues to evolve. We pride ourselves on using some local distilleries and we align with only BC wineries at both of our locations.” With cocktail names like ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Lions, Tigers, and Bears’, you know you’ll be in for something a little different.
Rudy has been met with tremendous support from the community and is always looking for ways he can give back to show his appreciation. He, along with his best friend Nate Flavel, had a passion to provide a quality event in the Okanagan, so with fundraising for KGH in mind, they created NOIR. The annual pop-up party (built around Ru Paul) brings some of the world’s biggest drag stars to the Okanagan for a night of fun, entertainment, and of course wine. NOIR has sold out in each of its three years, with upwards of $40,000 being raised for the KGH Foundation.
When I asked Rudy what the most rewarding part of opening Dorothy’s has been, he said “This is a tough one for me as I’ve had so many emotional moments over the past 18 months. Building two restaurants/bars during a pandemic has had many challenges and many rewards. I think just seeing people laugh, reunite, celebrate, and some of the stories people have shared with me have been moving to say the least.”
Needless to say, Friends of Dorothy has done an amazing job at not only supporting the LGBTQ2+ community but also in creating a safe and inclusive environment for people of all kinds. Rudy hopes to have a third location open in Vancouver by the end of 2021, and he hopes to one day expand across Canada.
Friends of Dorothy’s is open 7 days a week and they are located on the corner of Water and Lawrence street. Find them on Facebook, Instagram, and their website - fodlounge.com for more information and their events calendar.