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Red Light District
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After passing through the north gates of Chinatown on blvd St-Laurent you will enter a noticeably seedier part of the city. This is the part of Downtown is generally known as the Red Light District (I've also heard it referred to as the "tenderloin" for some reason, I'm sure the French probably have some good names for it too). The area is well known as a good place to get any sort of drug, prostitute, or poutine desired. Cheap import stores are also in high abundance slightly further north on St-Laurent. The lines are blurred and gentrification is blurring them further but most would agree that it is in a small area between St-Urbaine to the west, Chinatown to the south, Sherbrooke to the north and parc Berri (which is its own article) to the east with the intersection of Ste-Catherine and St-Laurent as its centre.
This area will likely undergo some major changes in the coming years. Montreal has recently been experiencing varying levels of gentrification, especially along blvd St-Laurent. As a result, this area is prime real-estate, it pretty much has it all; cheap rentals on two of Montreal's most important streets, it's right downtown and is close to Chinatown, Vieux-MontrĂ©al, The Plateau and the Gay Village. It is also in the centre of the Quartier des spectacles which is somewhat of a branding scheme by the city to lump all the show bars and concert halls in the area into one marketable location (there are others such as the Quartier du MusĂ©e in the west end of Downtown). Many "improvements" to the area are planned to make it more appealing to tourists and suburbanites not so accustomed to the grittiness who want take in a play or concert. It will be interesting but probably also quite infuriating to see what changes the city and developers will make
This section of St-Laurent (just north of Chinatown) is well known for seedy strip bars, burger joints, and porn theatres. It also has a small collection of building facades with nothing behind them.
We now find ourselves in the juiciest part of the Tenderloin, the intersection of St-Laurent and Ste-Catherine. On the northwest corner is none other than a yellow same day cheque cashing joint.
To the northeast is a very important component of any seedy part of Montreal, La Belle Province. La Belle Province specialises in anything greasy especially poutine. Its decor changes from store to store and its price range depends on how much disposable income the people in the neighbourhood have in their pockets. Only in Quebec baby!
To the southeast is a strip joint which has a screen that lights up at night on the second floor that plays a loop of a silhouette of a naked woman dancing. When I first moved to Montreal, I thought it was real.
Finally, to the southwest, is a former Burger King that moved further west and has since been replaced with an electronics store.
Further north on St-Laurent can be found more strip joints, cheap clothing stores, import shops, empty lots, and condo conversions.
We now find ourselves at St-Laurent Metro station with Les habitations Jeanne-Mance in the background. A short history lesson: Les habitations Jeanne-Mance was built in the 1950s to replace the city's original and much larger Red Light District. It was once a dense, gritty part of the city teeming with local watering holes, strip joints, brothels, Chinese gambling rings, and any other vice you can possibly imagine. It was an extremely popular destination for Americans during the prohibition era and later with soldiers on leave during the Second World War. The mayor at the time, Jean Drapeau was obsessed with cleaning up the city, building giant monuments and public services, and getting rid or anything deemed unpalatable to good and wholesome members of society. He ordered the destruction of the old Red Light District and constructed a typical modernist, Le Corbusier style social housing complex much like those in many major American cities (except this one didn't totally suck). Oh, he also had members of the opposition party arrested during municipal elections only to be released after the election was over.
Back to Ste-Catherine. East of St-Laruent until Parc Berri is a popular hangout for punk rockers, bikers, and squeegees. Always an exciting place after dark! This ice cream joint usually has a line of Harley's outside of it at night.
Foufounes Electriques is an incredibly famous punk rock bar much in the same vein as New York's CBGB. They have various theme nights where live DJs play punk, hardcore, metal, ska, etc. and the crowd moshes to the music.
This article has been viewed 112129 times in the last 8 years
colavitos ghost: 17th May 2007 - 16:10 GMT
in these pictures, montreal appears a little bit dirtier than i've always imagined it. i don't mean dirty in a bad way, just kind of gritty. a lot more american than european.
i suppose the presence of the french language doesn't mean it's actually IN france.
EvilGentleman: 17th May 2007 - 16:35 GMT
From what I remember of what my mother told me about the two years in the 1960's when she lived in France, Paris is 1000 times "grittier".
CE: 17th May 2007 - 17:49 GMT
It is important to remember that every city has many different faces and this is just one of them. Montreal has the ability to change drastically from one block to another. Just a short walk from where these pictures were taken is one of the largest and nicest theatre complexes in Canada for example.
The "European ambiance" label that is constantly being given to Montreal bothers me a bit. It usually comes from Americans and isn't so much based on what Montreal is as what most American cities aren't, which is, of course, functioning and vibrant urban cities. People come t Montreal and see street life and people drinking and eating on outdoor terraces and the image of Europe with its intact and vibrant cities comes to mind. There is no reason of course that American cities couldn't be like Montreal with a change in attitude toward urban life. It's all subjective of course, my friend whose family lived in Los Angeles for many years commented that he once went to Toronto and felt that it was a very European city which is quite ironic as most Canadians see Toronto as being the most American city in Canada.
Squeegees are people who wait at intersections and clean car windows at red lights with the hopes of being given some spare change by the car's driver.
CE: 29th May 2007 - 04:51 GMT
I've since found that some of my information on Les habitations Jeanne-Mance may be inaccurate so take it with a grain of salt until I get the real story.
MTL_YUL: 21st Nov 2007 - 04:05 GMT
no one calls this area the 'tenderloin'
Pat: 2nd Apr 2008 - 03:08 GMT
as a montrealer, it was a very interesting outsider view... (most of the time more informed than the insider view of course...) Yes, I agree with CE, Montreal changes a lot with a 5-10 minutes walk, for good and for bad... And as a Red Light district article... well this is the bad! ;)
Jennifer: 24th Apr 2008 - 18:17 GMT
This is so not representative of Montreal! Montreal is a city where you can hang out safely at night without being scared of everyday street gang attacks. Of course, attacks happen but not on a daily basis and as a woman living in Mtl, I've never felt threatened when walking at night in any neighborhood including the one shown on the pictures. ALL the pictures here have been taken around the same block!! It is as if I'd take pictures of East L.A. without setting foot in Beverly Hills!! I agree with the other on the European ambiance. America was populated by people from several European backgrounds, why should there be only one way to be? We have so many ways. The fact that people are speaking French shouldn't be any more European or exotic than the English speaking community. Latin people usually tend to care more about looks and good food, why shouldn't USA-ans follow? I have no clue, but they don't know what they're missing. Oh and by the way the Red Light District doesn't exist anymore, it was destroyed in the 60's before Expo 67. Ask any young local about the red light district. They'll think you have picked the wrong continent.
EvilGentleman: 17th Jun 2008 - 10:33 GMT
Jennifer, you must be unfamiliar with this site to post comments such as you did above. If you browse CE's other articles, which you can do by clicking on his name just under the main title bar of this article, you will notice numerous articles covering a vast area of Montreal.
He has posted articles about NDG, the Point, St-Henri, Griffintown, Downtown, Ville St-Laurent and many other areas.
I never saw anything claiming that this single article was intended to represent Montreal as a whole. So if you followed a link with such claims in order to get to this page, that is either a result of your not reading properly, or someone else created a link and did not describe it accureately.
And finally, the title of this article sits well. It is not to be taken literally, but this is an area that has been heavily focused on the sex trade for many years. And in standard North American parlance, any area where street prostitutes can be found plying their trade at night is often described using the euphemism of a "Red Light District".
Jamie: 17th Jun 2008 - 12:22 GMT
It's a recurring theme here. Someone posts a bunch of photos, or maybe even just one photo, from a particular place which don't paint a rose-tinted picture of that place and you can guarantee someone will chime in with the classic "these photos are not representative of [insert city here]" argument.
But anyway, an area where strip clubs, porn theaters and prostitutes cluster? That's a "Red Light District" in anyone's book. There's nothing wrong with that (moral argument's aside) every city has at least one. I imagine. EG is the expert on such matters ;)
Peter: 17th Jun 2008 - 12:55 GMT
i was amused by some of jennifer's more nebulous comments, like "everyday street gang attacks", "why should there be only one way to be? We have so many ways" and "Latin people usually tend to care more about looks and good food, why shouldn't USA-ans follow?"
hahahaha. agreed with eg and j re: red light districts, too... every city in the world has em...
BostonVisitor: 20th Jun 2008 - 13:01 GMT
Hi there and bonjour,
Peter: 20th Jun 2008 - 13:24 GMT
jack: 20th Jun 2008 - 14:20 GMT
the root word for prostitute comes from two sources, 1- stitute- to be situated, stature, a place of being, one who stands in a place. then pro, naturally we know it to be a professional, so we have a professional who stands in one place, much like the prostitutes who hang out in their designated spots on the street corners as a friend of mine or rather an acquaintenance whom i usually talk to her name is lilly duprix and she hangs out on the corner of 23rd street and 10th avenue at about 3am till 5am well this girl or should i say lady is a notorious drinker and can down a quart of ripple in one gulp as she calmly explains the facets of praust and nitze school of international diplomacy, she is generally seen in her lavendar cocktail evening gown and spike heels, so if you see her, remember she is a professional stitute and is estute in all areas of human concern.
EvilGentleman: 20th Jun 2008 - 15:26 GMT
BostonVisitor, I honestly have no clue about the costs of prostitutes in the city, nor where to go for the best deals. But like any other commodity, the sex market will provide better quality for higher price. I would suggest that you avoid streetwalkers and either find yourself a strip club with private booths and lax rules, or splurge on (or is that splooge on?) a call girl, the numbers of which can be found in the back of many local weeklies, and in the clasifieds of mainstream newspapers. Even better, why not try to find yourself a real girlfriend, so you can get it for free, and not have to worry about being arrested?
jack, thanks for helping to bring me closer to understanding the root meaning of words such as prostitute, destitute, restitute and institute.
Peter: 20th Jun 2008 - 15:32 GMT
qotd! "find yourself a real girlfriend, so you can get it for free, and not have to worry about being arrested"
Dana G'z: 28th Jul 2008 - 21:26 GMT
Does anyone know what neighborhood i should stay in?? Going to Montreal for August 7th-11th 2008. I want to be close to all the action; clubs, 24 hr food, etc...I am a black guy from Washington, DC. so i like hip-hop and reggae and strip clubs...any suggestions for clubs...holla at me Montreal!!
magan: 11th Oct 2008 - 14:59 GMT
I'm from montreal all a long st cathrine you have strip clubs and hoes all over your best bet is to stay in the middle of the orange line and green line of the metro system and you will have fun also prostitution is not leagle and if ˙ou find a hoe and she is only asking 50 bucks hold your dick and run cheap hoes in montreal are not that clean so whatch your self
james: 4th Jan 2010 - 01:51 GMT
I lived in Montreal in the early 70s for 3 years. I found the whores to be good looking, pretty wild, and not much money. I was especially fond of the Trannys. They were better looking than the women, and would do anything you wanted. Great memories. It was also a pretty nice place to live. You didnt have to do the things I did. I did them because they were what I wanted to do at the time.
Roof: 9th Feb 2010 - 08:20 GMT
Not to correct some of you all's past messages, but there is one form of prostitution that is legal here in Canada. It is legal with outcall escorts (if the call girl comes to your home or hotel). Even if you go to an incall escort or massage parlour, those are generally tolerated for prostitution in Canada. I know becuz Im a student from the states in Vancouver. I wanna know aboot the hooker scene in Montreal. How much does it cost generally, what are the price ranges?
NYer: 17th Apr 2010 - 00:10 GMT
I've heard that there is 6000 Strippers in Montreal!! Wich is enormous
fred: 27th May 2010 - 05:29 GMT
this is bullshit, I'll canclled my travelling to montreal, I'll go in marseille either
bob (truck driver): 6th Jun 2010 - 17:27 GMT
yeah montreal is beautiful city but has differnt faces and you know i am a truck driver and usually travel to all over north america and party and having one nightstands and to tell you the truth i didn t get any in montreal you know why bceause when i went to club surprisely i didn t see alot of girls in nightclubs i asked someone and he said if you want girl you got pay for that !
mike: 4th Aug 2010 - 16:32 GMT
Montreal is fine for all types of women. Good looking hookers, Trannys, whatever. But my last visit to Montreal was spoiled by a French Canadian guy beating the crap out of a hooker on St. Catherines, just East of St. Laurent. He had several friends watching both his back and the fun of the beating. But I would say that for the non Montrealers that saw this vicious beating, and I would guess he was her pimp, it left a nasty impression of Montreal. Like many cities, Montreal looks good on the surface, but you dont have to scratch hard to find a nasty, vicious underclass. And no, it is not the same everywhere.
Dice Man: 21st Sep 2010 - 04:43 GMT
I've been to Montreal many times over the last 20 years and have seen the street life (hookers, skin heads, punks)slowly disappear over the years. You could literally find them within a square block radius from St. Laurent to St. Denis up to Rene Levesque down to St. Laurent. Life unfolded so dynamically within that span. Where has that life disappeared to? With all the demolishing going on, where is the "old downtown life" moved on to??
Montrealer: 28th Sep 2010 - 21:15 GMT
I'm a montrealer and truly find my city to be a complete disgrace. It's sad. It's dirty. It's laws on prostitution are disgusting... Or rather it's tolerance... There are so many diseases going around due to the prostitution a d so many murders and beatings.... Something should be done. Yes, granted the pictures above are a good representation of the area and not of Montreal as a whole, but it's still needs to be cleaned up. And for those saying that there are French people here and how does it not seem as European as expected well, you have a lot to learn about the French in Quebec. They are nothing like the true French of France. The history of the French in Quebec isn't as great as they'd like you to believe. The French who were brought to Canada from France are the convicts. They were cleaning up France and sent them all here. Most are living off the government and not living that much of a different life than their ancestors.
trini- 2011/10/1: 10th Jan 2011 - 21:46 GMT
i must say no one account of montreal gave me a clear idea of what to expect, i think a visit will be in order. trust me if there is hoes i will find them. this topic was about the red light district not how the place looks and crime and what have you. people reading this article should have only one common ground. HOES.
Dominic: 25th Jan 2011 - 10:14 GMT
Lots of hookers in Montreal. Women, TS, others. All you need is money and to look in the right places. The East end which starts at St. Laurent is a good place to start. You do need to be careful about being mugged, I have seen this happen. Although Montreal is a safe place, the areas that hookers hang around, are also areas where the drug dealers, the pimps and muggers hang around, they know that the Johns with cash in their pockets will be around sooner or later. The hookers are good looking and good value for money, but be careful. If you are single and have a decent job, Montreal is a great place to live.
Nikki: 14th Mar 2011 - 01:17 GMT
I've lived in Montreal my whole life and it's a great place to live. I try to stay out of the seedy parts at night but during the day they are fine and great areas for second hand shopping. And most French people aren't european like at all. They are more like French rednecks. But that's a big generalization. Come to Montreal!!!
Rebekkah Emmanuel-From Buffalo: 5th May 2011 - 20:47 GMT
I long for the old days in Motreal which for me was between 1978 and 1996. I'm from Buffalo and the money was so long it was pathetic. Most tricks spent whatever you asked for and usually weren't a problem. The language barrier wasn't that bad because sex sells in any language. Some of the ho's were very attractive although you did have your mud-ducks. I was a mud-duck but I made more money than most of the so-called beautiful white ho's did because I was one of the best pickpockets on the Main. The only time the police fucked with us is if there was a lot of roberry reports. That's when they would do an immigration sweep and a lot of ho's were deported. I personally have been deported probably 14 or 15 times. Depending on the pimp you had; we'd be back in a day or two, if not the same might. It was a blast although I've seen a few of my ho-friends beaten badly by their(Canadian) pimps, thrown inti the trunks of cars, and a few have been murdered. I even participated in a murder investigation of my freind Sandy from Toronto. I provided the police with the license plate of the brown van the killer was driving and a desription of my dear friend. A lot Montreallers don't want to believe these things hapened in their city but they did. There are a lot of parents in Montreal who have me to thank for sending their wayward daughters home. You're welcome!
EvilGentleman: 8th May 2011 - 05:38 GMT
Rebekkah Emmanuel-From Buffalo, out of respect for your hatred of errors, the city is Montreal, not Motreal. I will leave the other typos alone.
Montreal has a very nasty underbelly, but usually only those who have fallen into the world of drug and/or gambling addictions truly experience the full brunt of it. I have noticed US East Coast gangs have been filling the void created when the cops locked up the Hell's Angels and Mafia.
I have noticed a lot of drug pushers are working double-time to turn nice girls into drug-addicted whores. Human scum of the earth, these pimps and pushers. I hope karma catches up to them sooner rather than later.
JIM: 13th Jun 2011 - 14:32 GMT
Lived in Montreal for many years, before moving to Vancouver via Toronto. Liked the hookers in Montreal, they were attractive. Didnt care for the pimps and drugs. But Toronto was just as bad, just Jamaican pimps instead of French Canadians. Vancouver is pretty awsome for women, but expensive. I think I would vote Montreal as the best city for a good time with the hookers, best looking, most of them etc. Weather is awful and no matter what people think or say, the areas where you find the hookers are pretty rough and you stand a pretty good chance of getting thumped and robbed. But I think this is true in most cities. Still, Montreal gets my vote. I also note that the women in Montreal are better dressed, a little more stylish.
Synthyst: 3rd Jul 2011 - 16:57 GMT
Best place to go where there are many many girls all chilling and having a good time, The Unity Club :P But watch yourself, its a look-only club. The largest part of its inhabitants aren't straight. To beware getting hit by a girl twice your size xD
The TRUE Montrealer: 9th Aug 2011 - 04:24 GMT
First of all f-u "Montrealer", prostitution, like drugs, like all other rights should be LEGAL, the gouv. have no right telling you where to shove your dick or what to put in your body.. If prostitution and drugs were fully legal, you won't have organized crime anymore, and the only reason why it's not legal is because of conservative douche-bags such as your whinny self. I'm from Montreal and I've lived in many cities, and this city is awesome, the people are a bit simple-minded but no city is perfect. Oh the girls here are total bitches, premadonas, don't come here for the women, if you want fun easy women GO TO ASIA!
For those who are still interested in some Montreal hookers, google: MERB
Montreal Downhill: 16th Sep 2011 - 18:20 GMT
Having lived in Montreal for many years, I would say that it has slipped down the foodchain. Years ago, it was pretty safe. You could walk in the East End, pick up hookers etc. no real issues. The clubs seemed safe, well I never saw any trouble. Today, we have third world immigrants that think they are Dreads, usually from the Caribbean, and they push drugs, fight, mug and pimp. Since their arrival, I wouldnt recommend Montreal. Try Toronto, or any East Coast city in the USA. Canada needs to tighten up on illegals, clamp down on immigration etc. and clean up. Its reputation for safety has been erased for many years and it is no longer considered a family based destination. I also note that many Canadians these days are trying to move South. I think because of the cost of living and the steady decline in Canadas lifestyle. Looking more like the third world these days.
fddd: 20th Sep 2011 - 15:39 GMT
come on. for living around montreal i'd say how you guys are completely wrong about safety and the french montrealers.
seriously yes crime does happen but the murder rate in such a big city isn't as frightful as you make the city to be. and really, the poster who said how french canadians are "convicts" and still living off the government, i urge you to realize even though montreal has so many english speaking people, the french speaking community does not mostly live off the government. yeah there are idiots who refuse to speak english, live in dumps and drink beer all day at the expense of the government but they're a minority... but they're not only in montreal.
anon (modemcable144.173-130-66.mc.videotron.ca): 19th Oct 2011 - 08:03 GMT
Where exact places can I get a clean and decent hooker in Montreal?and what is the price range per hour etc.I want to visit montreal soon and want some fun.)
Apple IIGS: 20th Oct 2011 - 23:58 GMT
Interestingly, I just dug up a tapped Montreal CTV news 'On Assignment' special entitled “Skid Row”. It was all about Montreal's decaying Red Light District, back in early 2006. There was talk about revitalizing it into a mini Times Square type area known as Quartier des spectacles. What happened with that?
Well fast forward 5+ years into the present and its even MORE run down, abandoned and seedier than back then! I walked through one night after the Jazz Fest and felt like I was in the Bronx or Harlem in the 70's.
Don't let anyone tell you Montreal is NOT represented by those pictures above. If they do, they're obviously living in the past, back when Montreal was the jewel of Canada and North America. Today Montreal is a back water, dirty, corrupt and dangerous city, comparable to districts in the third world (look at the roads or collapsing tunnels, overpasses and buildings if you argue otherwise). It's also full of racist red necks who are not friendly to outsiders (i.e. anyone who is not Quebecois). The root of all this decay and downfall is the political crap by the ethnocentric government and people here, who've successful pushed out hundreds of thousands of people.
Toronto is essentially 'New Montreal', where all the talent, brains, creativity, culture and money has gone.
LEO: 24th Oct 2011 - 19:18 GMT
God I am so dreaming about living Montreal.
montrealer: 9th Dec 2011 - 02:48 GMT
wow. you guys are soft. sure, there's a few bums and prostitutes but they're not dangerous. that corner was more gully in the 90s...
brent: 27th Jan 2012 - 18:43 GMT
The hookers and sin is the touris atraction,why do tou go to vagas,sex and sin the nessary evil for a free enterprise systen.
Swede: 11th Aug 2012 - 05:10 GMT
5 years living here, and yes, that area is seedy and a maybe not the most welcoming at night, but seriously, Montreal is a fantastic place to live in. And this is such a small part of town. Christ, I have never felt unsafe here. I am European and this city has a very European touch to it, it is a very good blend of Europe and America, it is special.
Mike: 6th Jan 2013 - 21:19 GMT
Not sure about the female prostitutes, I know there are a few but they seem to attached to pimps and mc gang members. The best time to be had is with the tranny hookers. Some of them are truly beauts. They will do anything and look better than the women. They seem to parade along Ontario Street. My only caution is to get up close to them. Some look pretty good from a distance, but when up close, look like men. Others are terrific.
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