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Brunswick House

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Luke Champion / June 4, 2013

The Brunswick House requires that you pass through not one but three check points before you find yourself within its hallowed halls. You must first prove your identity; then get checked for weapons (or more likely, hidden alcohol) before you are awarded clearance and branded to prove you'd completed the previous two steps. None of this is unique to the Brunny — as it's colloquially known — the strange thing is just how defined each step is, how specific and separate they are, like it's a bit of theatre, which plays at giving you a sense of exclusivity: "you've made it this far, lucky you!"

My roommate, Joe, and I arrive shortly after 10:00pm and it's still mostly empty. We beeline for the bar to sample the finest tequila $4 can buy, which is served with a shaker of iodized salt and a half moon of lemon. The tequila is followed by a pitcher of cold, Canadian lager (Canadian or Coors Light, your choice!) and we find ourselves a table at the fringe to watch the pre-show unfold. For the next hour people slowly trickle in. Guys do slow, leering laps around the centre bar — single serving mini pitchers in hand — giving curled lip glances towards tables of girls.

Joe and I drink our beer and talk about how I might be the only one in the building who has been an adult long enough to grow a full beard. At around 11:45pm the floodgates open and a rush of people swarm in. We move to the back room, order another couple of tequilas and watch as the dance floor swells.

Here's the thing, it's easy to shit all over the Brunny. It's a big blaring, behemoth full of ego and tiny shorts; the place people go to spend their OSAP cheques and rack up regret only to roll out of bed and piece it all back together over breakfast the following morning. For some reason though, people love it. It's been around in one form or another for over 100-years and if you went to U of T, there's a very good chance you at one point loved it too.

But wait, you never really liked it that much. All your friends went every weekend, so you just went with them and it was OK and sometimes you actually had a really good time, but that was when you first moved to the city. Once you found out about Kensington or Little Italy or Ossington or King West or wherever, you moved on. But, for all the swagger that goes on inside the Brunny do you know what's happening the most? People are having a GREAT TIME and they don't care if the bottle in their hand is some limited edition IPA or if the music is Fader approved.

Coors is good enough at a place like this, and when "We Found Love" comes on people lose their shit because it's a really, really good song. So when "We Found Love" came on, we made our way to the centre of the storm and proceeded to lose our shit. We bounced and swayed and flailed and swung for I don't know how long — it could have been ten minutes it could have been an hour. It was crowded and sweaty and in every direction there were people doing the same thing — eyes closed, arms stretched in the air twisting, slinking their hips and grinding to the beat.

The music itself is varied. You'll hear anything from R&B, Soul, Pop, Hip Hop, Rock and even a little New Country. When some dance remix of "Save Horse, Ride a Cowboy" came on, we made our way to the sidelines to get another beer and cool off. In front of us, just inside the dance floor a couple is grinding hard, occasionally turning around for some sloppy wet kisses. I think dancing and making out is too much for the drunk mind to handle because as soon as they start kissing their movements lose any semblance of dance and quickly turn to manic dry humps. The fury of it is almost adorable.

And that is sort of the secret to the Brunny's incredible sustained success as well as the root of its infamy. It's a haven for youthful indiscretion, where "what happens at the Brunny, stays at the Brunny, but upgraded for the internet age where happens at the Brunny gets sent right to Instagram with the caveat that it happened among those walls.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Canadian, Coors Light
Signature Drink:
Cheap shots
Bar Snacks:
Yes, but that's not why you come here
Top 40, R&B, Soul, New Country
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
U of T and other University students, men having a mid-life crisis
Thursday to Saturday, 10pm-2am



Karen Q. / May 16, 2013 at 4:01 AM

I don't usually give negative reviews, and I hardly ever review at all, but the Brunny's WILL STEAL your shit from coat check...sometimes they will outright steal your coat if it is nice enough (ie. Canada Goose) and say that they are not liable because "how do we know you checked in your coat?" (when in fact it is mandatory). Then if you are a tiny girl like me, they will get their giant fat asshole women employees to literally grab you on each end, one on the neck, one on your legs and stretch you out like a medieval torture chamber. Then, they will literally drag you to the floor. If you tell the cops what they did in detail (which I did), they will tell you they have the right to do that because it's their property. This is not an isolated incident. Ask 10 people who has been to the Brunny's and I'd say at least one will tell you a story like this. You have been WARNED.

Collin Ng / June 4, 2013 at 10:55 AM

i can't stop picturing 2 bros rocking out to we found love

Raymi / June 4, 2013 at 10:58 AM

It's a bit like rapeahol with a side of street fight.

Graeme Quinn / June 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM

This was a refreshingly positive review, exhibiting the Brunny for what it is without an air of elitism. Kudos to you BlogTO.

AV In replying to a comment from Collin Ng / June 4, 2013 at 11:07 AM

....grinding hard, occasionally turning around for some sloppy wet kisses

Craig / June 4, 2013 at 11:12 AM

My favourite thing about the brunny is when you get in, bouncer says "$5 dollar cover", no mention of anything else... then you get past him and another bouncer says "$5 manditory coat check".... good way to hustle me into paying more money.

deb / June 4, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Wow, that's not the Brunny from when I used to go (1977-1980) ... there was no DANCING, other than the famous Mama Chicky (sp?) who was in her 60s, maybe? She used to dance around singing "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts". Then there was "Dead Fred" an old man with a perpetual frozen smile on his face. And there was a couple in their 50s that worked there - can't remember their names - and we used to marvel that they were still madly in love ... in their 50s! Imagine! But the Brunny was one big room downstairs full of tables and all the university kids would come and drink jugs of cheap, watered down draft beer - or I think you could buy it, 40 cents a glass. A jug was maybe $3.00? It was just all tables, no dancing, sticky floors, the occasional fights with tables flying everywhere. And Ronny, my friend Ronny, the bouncer, who would protect me and my friends from obnoxious men. All I would have to do is catch Ronny's eye and he would be over there in a millisecond "Is this guy giving you problems?" Guy gone. And then I would get a big, cuddly, teddy-bear Ronny hug. It was a fun place ... and a tacky place. Upstairs was Albert's Hall where you could listen to a live jazz band. But downstairs, it was fun to laugh at the horrible entertainment, drink cheap beer and just have .... fun.

Karen Q / June 4, 2013 at 11:32 AM

That's just it. You can only have a positive experience with the Brunny BEFORE it became the Brunny we know now. Or, if you go there for only one night to do a superficial review about it. A good analogy for the Brunny's is Chris Brown. Seems like a nice guy at first. Maybe you're like Rihanna and you can forgive him for beating you up. But I have more dignity than that.

Rob / June 4, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Is Rockin' Irene still alive and...rockin?

EricM / June 4, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Ahh the Brunny. It is what it is and in all honesty aside from the lack of Rockin' Irene and the guy who sold tacquitos our of a giant sombrero at the end of the night (a horrible idea in retrospect but the greatest thing ever at the time) I'm sure it's pretty much the same as it was a decade ago when I was going... and three decades before that when it was some of our parents. It's a student drunk feast. That's fine. No elitist judgement required.

sw In replying to a comment from Karen Q / June 4, 2013 at 12:05 PM

I agree with you - totally despise this bar, despite the ungodly amount of times I frequented this place (in high school)... But then you keep calling it "Brunny's" and your opinion is simultaneously discredited.

deb / June 4, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Irene, that was it, the lady in love! :) (I think!) ... and Chris Brown, ewwwwwwww ... glad my student drunk days are over!

Karen Q In replying to a comment from sw / June 4, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Oh hahahahaha I didn't even notice. Thanks for pointing it out. I learned it as "Brunny's" and it's hard to unlearn things sometimes. So I stand corrected. I wish the Brunny nothing but failure.

brun / June 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Nate The Great & Rockin' Irene.

F*cking Legends !

Collin Ng In replying to a comment from AV / June 4, 2013 at 1:31 PM

well, i would definitely consider the brunny as a hopeless place.

Joey In replying to a comment from Karen Q. / June 4, 2013 at 1:55 PM

If it makes you feel any better (it won't) they stole my jacket and kicked me out just as I was about to start arguing with them about it. I hate this place so much.

T James / June 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM

The brunny is has changed a lot over the past 2 years. Vs what it use to be, the entertainment is better, staff is nicer, and the security team keeps it a safe environment to get shitfaced.

Never have I had a jacket stolen (I wear a Canada Goose jacket), nor have I been caught paying twice for coat check AND cover.

Then again, maybe i'm just not an ignorant drunk like some people sound to be ^^^^^^^^

Old Mold / June 4, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Irene is rolling over in her grave at what a cheesy shithole the Brunswick has become.

JD / June 4, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Maybe 'don't wear a jacket when you go to the Brunny' is the lesson here.

Mister Me / June 4, 2013 at 3:17 PM

Why is that 16 year old girl at the bar wearing a head band? And why is the "Brunny" serving her?

Logansfist In replying to a comment from Mister Me / June 4, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Jail-bait trap for sure. Maybe they hustle extra covers to pay for all the fines they are slapped with.

Jim O / June 4, 2013 at 3:38 PM

pretty sure I proposed marriage to Rockin' Irene a few times back in the day. God rest her soul.

MoMo / June 4, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Luke, this explains the pictures on the Instagram! Glad to hear you had a good time. Also, chuckled a fair bit throughout the article. You captured it so well.

Jeremy / June 4, 2013 at 9:05 PM

The Brunny provided me with some of the best nights of my 18-22 years! My first trip was the first week of university which coincided with me breaking up with my "high school sweetheart" and I drank the night away with friends. It was one of those movie moments and I'll never forget it.

It was a great place to be for a while - DJ Heavy, Rockin' Irene, the old guy who played the piano, the tacquitos guys - EricM, thanks for the reminder!...that guy was the best.

Let's see, I remember going to the washroom downstairs and being ankle deep in water because someone flooded the toilets. I remember seeing girls taking their tops off on stage, I remember making out with chicks on the stage while dripping sweat listening to "Country Grammar". And funny, I don't ever remember checking my coat at coat check.

Is this place a total dump? Absolutely...and that's what made it amazing. For those who haven't been, know that you need not expect anything classy to happen to you while inside. Jackets stolen, beer soaked clothing, maybe a punch to the nose - it's all part of the Brunswick House experience.

Kat / June 5, 2013 at 1:44 AM

This is quite possibly the most accurate review I have ever read. The Brunny is a shithole and that's why it's awesome.
I find that nowadays (I'm 24) I don't like to get Brunny-drunk when I go out. And it's not the kind of place you want to remain even the least bit sober. But man, did I have some good times here for a couple years.

The taquitos were before my time though.. Bring that guy back and I am so there.

Macklemore h. / June 5, 2013 at 12:16 PM

The ultimate douche HQ. You won't be able to turn around without seeing dumbass drunken UofT kids acting the fool and trying to be tuff guys.

Belonsa May In replying to a comment from Macklemore h. / June 6, 2013 at 10:09 AM

My sister wants to bring a can of bear repellent or mace if we go again. One of those UofT creepsh1ts stepped on her foot and got hairy about it, as if it were her fault.

Joe / June 9, 2013 at 2:08 PM

I hate you

Alex / January 13, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Worst place to go in downtown. Horrible staff, brutal service and ignorant staff.

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