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.