TORONTO — Priape's four gay retail stores across Canada closed their doors this week after its ownership filed for bankruptcy protection listing $687,000 in debts owed to 106 companies.
The closing of Priape’s four stores in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver may have been predicated by a warning earlier this year by Health Canada, which issued a warning to retailers to stop selling and distributing alkyl nitrites or, as they are more commonly known, “poppers.”
The warning came in June, just before the Pride season, and sales at Priape later tanked, according to Denis Leblanc, Priape Inc.'s general manager.
“[Poppers] represented a huge amount of sales and profit, so that’s what triggered it all,” Leblanc told Daily Xtra. “It’s not so much percentage of sales, but the gross profit it brought in, and proportionately it was very significant.”
Although poppers are not considered a narcotic in Canada, and possession of alkyl nitrates is not illegal, they are considered a drug, and their sale is regulated by Canada's Food and Drug Act. In nearly all cases, they are labeled as leather cleaners, room odorizers or liquid incense.
In the case of Priape, Health Canada said its Montreal shop was selling poppers under the labels Magnum, Jungle Juice Platinum, Boot Cleaner, Z-Best, Man Scent, Nitro Supra, Blue Boy, White Box, Pig Sweat, Jungle Juice Black Label, Jungle Juice Plus and Real Rocherfort.
Health Canada says unauthorized sales of the drug can be punished with jail terms of up to three years and fines of up to $5,000.
Priape's Montreal store was the first to open in 1974, later expanding to Toronto in 1998, Calgary in 2004 and Vancouver in 2005. The shops sold DVDs, books, clothing, leather, sex toys and other products that appeal to gay consumers.
Priape also operates ManWear, which designs and sells T-shirts, tank tops, jeans and accessories, and a retail website. The company also is also a minority investor in Maleflixxx Television, a Canadian subscription cable channel offering gay porn programming.
Priape, which had about 60 employees, has been under bankruptcy protection since late June.