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Clinton's Tavern

Photo: Tim Shore

Posted by Staff / May 31, 2009

Clinton's, on the corner of Bloor and Clinton, has a timeless kind of charm. A pub in front and a kickin' dance hall in back, Clinton's is the kind of place where modern young folks can dance the twist, the mashed potato and the locomotion without looking ridiculous. Every Saturday night, Clinton's dark back room transforms into a high school gymnasium of yore for Shake a Tail: a sock hop for poodle-skirted hipsters and oldies lovers alike. Although retro themed events often flirt with precociousness or pretention, Shake a Tail does neither, offering good times and smile-inducing tunes from the 60s to a wide variety of patrons.

In business since 1937, Clinton's is the second oldest tavern in the city (the Wheat Sheaf is the oldest). It has survived the Great Depression, World War II, the turbulent 60s and the horrors of 80s fashion by understanding that patrons of any era will respond to good food and good music. Clinton's attracts patrons as diverse as its Value-Village purchased decor, young and old, polished and flaky, newcomers, old timers and all between.

In the 60s, Frank Sinatra kept a private room upstairs, visiting whenever he was in town. In later years comedian John Candy would stop by for drinks, too.

These days the front room is classic tavern kitsch, with wood paneling, leather-tack chairs and of course, the mismatched Value Village bric a brac. On the menu are modern classics like poutine, spring rolls, BLTs, burgers and fries. Vegetarian options abound, with hummus and guacamole making frequent appearances in a variety of offerings.

With capacity for 200 party people, the back room can be rented at a steal. As a result, several local bands have launched their careers at Clinton's, including The Cowboy Junkies, The Barenaked Ladies, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Blue Airplanes and Die Mannequins. The first live show at Clinton's was in 1980, headlined by Jeff Healey.

In summer months, the adjacent sidewalk turns into a full service patio, extending the fun into a whole other realm and providing an outdoor spot to sample some of the 13 beers on tap.

I go to Clinton's for two reasons: 1.) to dance the night away at Shake a Tail and 2.) to grab a snack and a pint before heading upstairs to sing karaoke at XO. No matter which, I always have a blast, and in each case end up singing old songs, dancing, and of course, shaking my tail. Clinton's is in its 70s, and still having fun, and I hope that one day I can say the same!

Writing by Devon Scoble

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Blackthorn Cider, Mill Street Cobblestone, Mill Street Tankhouse, Mill Street Organic, Steamwhistle, Coors Light, Heinecken, Rickard's White, 50, Creemore, Big Rock Traditional, Canadian, Moosehead
Signature Drink:
Clinton's Coffee (creme de cacao, vanilla vodka, Bailey's and coffee)
Bar Snacks:
Poutine, spring rolls, nachos
Patio:
Yes
Music/Genre:
Depends on bartender in front/band in back. Could be punk, funk, rock, folk, hip hop, etc
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
Everyone
Hours:
11am-2am daily

Discussion

11 Comments

annon / June 12, 2009 at 3:03 PM
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Are we kidding here? At $1000 bar minimum, or else you pay 40% of the difference yourself, renting the back space at Clinton's is no "steal". Unless by that you mean they are setting up a system where young bands get tricked into shelling out there own dough just for the priviledge of playing there.

????? In replying to a comment from annon / August 8, 2009 at 10:40 PM
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It is cheap, i played there with my band and the minimum was for a weekend show. We made the minimum with no problems and paid nothing. So if you can't round up some of your friends and fans to come see you play, maybe you should stick to playing in your parent's garage. By the way, it's the best sounding room in T.O.

AA / August 26, 2010 at 10:26 AM
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! ! ! ! U P D A T E ! ! ! !

Just want to let everybody know that SHAKE A TAIL is moving to SNEAKY DEE'S, October 16th.

Same sweaty party.
Now with more space to SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE!!!!!


Really? / September 8, 2010 at 9:33 AM
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! ! ! ! U P D A T E ! ! ! !

Just want to let everybody know that SHAKE A TAIL is now spamming BlogTO!

Same shitty music.
Now with more spammy goodness!!!!!

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Blindmelon / March 29, 2014 at 10:03 AM
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I am blind and went with a group of friends to Clinton's Tavern for a throwback 90's dance party. The music was great, and it was fun dancing. However when I sat down to rest, one of their staff came up to me and told me if I continued to close my eyes I would be asked to leave, and promptly continued on to collect empty cups. My friend told me they are probably looking out for patrons which have been over-served, however it was very insulting and could have been handled in a much more sensitive way. If the staff had spent any amount of time observing us, they would have seen that I was awake and my friend and I were speaking and not drunk. When my friend spoke to the staff about the incident the response they gave us was "it is our rule that patrons are not allowed to close their eyes". I guess there is no place for the blind at Clinton's tavern, they have some work to do with respect to accommodating all members of their community.

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