Canada’s first legal casino, Diamond Tooth Gerties (4th and Queen, 867/993-5575, early May–mid-Sept. Sun.–Wed. 7 p.m.–2 a.m. and Thurs.–Sat. 2 p.m.–2 a.m.), was named for a Dawson dance-hall queen with a diamond between her two front teeth. Though casinos were as common as sluice boxes and saloons at the height of the Dawson madness, gambling in the Yukon (and throughout Canada) wasn’t formally legalized until 1971, the year this place opened.
Games include slot machines, blackjack, poker, sic bo, and roulette, with odds that decidedly favor the house. Drinks are not free, even if you’re dropping major-league cash. This sure isn’t Vegas! The 30-minute floorshow of Geritol oldies and cancan kicks is presented nightly at 8:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and midnight. Cover charge is $10.
Gerties is run by the Klondike Visitors Association as a money-maker to restore and promote Dawson City. Take a look around town and you’ll see how much money they make at Gerties (or how much the tourists lose)—around $1 million annually. I’m not saying that you won’t come out in front, but just approach this joint with the attitude that you’re making a donation. And why not? It’s for a very good cause.
Sourtoe Cocktail Club
Dawson’s most infamous nightcap can be “enjoyed” at the Downtown Hotel (Queen St. and 2nd Ave., 867/993-5346). It all began in 1973 when “Captain” Dick Stevenson was searching though an abandoned cabin and he came across a pickle jar that held a toe that had been severed by an ax. Inspiration (if it could be called that) struck, and the toe landed in a drink.
The original toe is long gone — it was swallowed by an overzealous patron — but at last check, the bar in the Downtown Hotel had eight toes to choose from, all looking ghastly at best. They’re preserved in salt, and came from donations by folks who lost them in accidents or because of frostbite.
It’s pretty gross, but amazingly popular — 2,000 or so folks become members of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club annually. Sourtoe cocktails are $5 (you can put the toe in any drink). The bartenders make sure the toe touches your lip to receive an official certificate showing your prowess in stupid bar tricks.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition