Hells Angels retail store open in Toronto's east end
The Hells Angels have opened a retail store in Toronto’s east end, blocks away from the site of their downtown clubhouse that was smashed by police nearly six years ago.
The walk-in store, located in the Leslieville neighbourhood at 98 Carlaw Avenue, sells a range of merchandise including baseball caps, men's T-shirts and even women’s yoga pants.
"Downtown Toronto Hells Angels motorcycle club gives a big thank you to all our friends and supporters," reads a message on the store’s website.
The merchandise, which can also be ordered online, features slogans such as: "When in doubt, knock’em out!" and "Support 81."
According to the Hells Angels website, “8” stands for the eighth letter in the alphabet (h), and “1” stands for the first letter (a). Together, they represent “HA”, an acronym for Hells Angels.
A supporter of the biker gang, who has the acronym "81" tattooed on his neck,” told CTV Toronto that he doesn’t understand why some people are "up in arms" over the opening of the new store.
"It don’t bother me, man. Everyone makes a big stink about them. I support them. My uncle is a member in Oshawa. It’s a legit business," he said on Tuesday, standing outside the store.
Reaction to the retail store’s opening has ranged from "no comment" to indifference.
A Leslieville resident who has two young children and lives across the street from the Hells Angels store says she thinks its presence is “not so bad.”
"We still have a few drug dealings going on, and so with the Hells Angels here, I think the police (will) be here and there will be less of the drug deals and crack heads," she told CTV Toronto.
In April 2007, Toronto police smashed through the brick wall of the biker gang’s clubhouse at 498 Eastern Ave.
The raid was publicly orchestrated to send a "clear" message to individuals who choose a criminal lifestyle, Toronto police said at the time.
Earlier this year, items from the clubhouse bearing the notorious gang’s "death head" insignia were returned to the bikers, following an Ontario judge’s ruling that there was no relation between criminal acts committed by club members and their paraphernalia.
"They took everything we owned and put us on trial. The expense was and still is enormous. They did their best to destroy us," reads a message on the new store’s website.
"We are still fighting for our clubhouse."
The east-end clubhouse was officially forfeited in June 2012.
With files from CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney