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Hard Luck

Photo: Tim Shore

Posted by Jessica McGann / December 24, 2009

Hard Luck, found near Bathurst and Dundas West, brings a new dimension to Toronto's music scene by billing itself as a hard rock venue. Reminiscent of The Horseshoe or even, to a certain extent, Grossman's, Hard Luck has a bare bones feel about it. No fussy decorating touches hang from the ceilings or walls. The plain wooden tables are scattered about the space and easily moved to accommodate different sized groups, or off to the side for dancing crowds. And yet it's not unappealling.

The look is very effortlessly rock 'n' roll. The space has that empty feeling music venues often do, to accommodate crowds, but even half full it manages to capture a romanticized idea of what rock venues should be like instead of being depressing. Everything is well laid-out and the bar has a certain welcoming ambiance. The bartender was happy to banter with me from behind the simple but well-lit bar, that comes equipped with six drafts on tap and all your basic spirits. The Hard Luck isn't the kind of place where you'd order a mojito, but there are ample reserves of JD and Canadian Club.

The clientele seems to be made up of a well-rounded sampling of all your basic music fan subtypes: an affectionate couple at the bar looked like they'd been making Toronto's rock scene since The Horseshoe opened in the '60s. A couple of girls shyly tucking their wavy locks behind their ears looked like they'd probably spent the afternoon listening to Pavement and CBC radio. A group of younger guys at a table, that ducked out regularly for cigarettes, looked pretty hard, the sort you might cross the street to avoid, while the one older man among them was an inscrutable rock mystery, with long, shaggy black hair under a 12-gallon cowboy hat, and a face that had seen a lot of living. A girl ordering a drink chatted easily with me, her wholesome aesthetic screaming "country music fan". All in all, a bit of a mixed crowd.

The bar hosts live music on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (as well as comedy on Sundays), and while I didn't recognize the heavy riffs they spun between acts, much of what I saw was softer than I expected. In fact, the bartender tells me, although they play primarily pretty heavy music, the bar showcases a wide spectrum of acts, including rockabilly and country, as well as punk, metal and electronica. The two-storey space is also available to rent out for events.

The stage is small but perfectly intimate. Things can get downright hectic at the Hard Luck depending on the night and who's playing, so fortunately there's an upstairs, too. The flexibility of the space means that they can pack a bunch of shows in, too. They're hosting a bash on New Year's Eve as well as a whole slew of bands on New Year's Day. "Tuff Luck Tuesdays" has no cover, and the venue books primarily independent bands. A great place to discover new music, plus a nice new venue for other uses, like Sunday night comedy, the Hard Luck looks poised to work its way into Toronto's list of long-standing local music halls.

Writing by Jessica McGann

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Mill St Organic, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Sapporo, Okanagan Pale Ale, Steam Whistle
Signature Drink:
JD
Bar Snacks:
None
Patio:
No
Music/Genre:
Tuff Luck Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, plus special events
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
Music fans, rockers young and old, fairly diverse crowd about 25+
Hours:
8pm to 2am daily

Discussion

18 Comments

hot carl / January 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM
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this place is a joke!!! while the room is a nice size and there's PBR on tap the sound is horrifically awful. i played here recently and there aren't even any stage monitors!!! the "sound guy" (not qualified to even be called that) doubles as a bar back WHILE BANDS ARE PLAYING. WTF?!?!?! there are only 2 microphones and 2 mic stands. if you want to drink beer and listen to shitty hardcore (house music of choice) then this is the place for you! if you are in a band with any self-respect and/or dignity STEER CLEAR OF HARD LUCK.

got to be kidding / January 26, 2010 at 10:25 PM
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I have to say, if your going to call your self a live venue, it might be a good idea to be equipped for it.
If your looking to just sit drink and listen to a bad system...this is the place for you.
Apparently this place is run by musicians, I don't think so!

CEEDEE / February 14, 2010 at 5:56 PM
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I CANT ATTEST TO THE PREVIOUS COMMENTS, BUT WE DID PERFORM THERE LAST NIGHT AND WE WERE TREATED WITH RESPECT, AND THE SOUND WAS GOOD ACCORDING TO OUR FANS, AND WE PLAN TO GO BACK AGAIN.

Andrea / February 23, 2010 at 10:18 PM
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Gonna check it out this Saturday night!

hot pants and sweaty pitts / March 25, 2010 at 7:07 PM
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Sounds like hot carl was in the karaoke bar next door.

devon bustersize / March 31, 2010 at 5:19 PM
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this place smells like mokeys

devon bustersize / March 31, 2010 at 5:19 PM
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THIS PLACE SMELLS LKIKE ZZEEEEBRAS

devon bustersize / March 31, 2010 at 5:20 PM
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THIS PLACE.........
THIS PPLACEEE......
THIS PLACEEE


aww this place.

JJ / May 1, 2010 at 5:47 PM
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The new sound system at Hard Luck (which was put in in late February) is absolutely top notch. It features more channels, more wattage and more monitors than the previous system.

This is a venue that is getting better and better bookings, and I strongly recommend checking it out again if you haven't been there since before the new system got put in.

aids / May 16, 2010 at 10:41 PM
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Played Saturday night, May 15th. The employees were great, friendly and hospitable, I can't judge what we sounded like because through the monitors it sounded fine to me, but I heard from some members of the audience some concerns regarding the mixing.

$12 pitchers. fuck yeah.

nuts / September 21, 2010 at 1:06 PM
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WTF?????
Ive heard some really good things about this place so im lookin into playing a show there, and there is absolutly no contact info, no phone number no website,

what kinda opperation is being run here

GAYTOWN!

Bryan Scumbally / September 27, 2010 at 7:16 AM
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The Hard Luck was amazing!!! The sound was awesome, the girls were beautiful and the beer was cold.
"SCUMBALLY"

Brendan / November 24, 2010 at 7:07 PM
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I went here a couple of Saturdays ago to see Class Assassins - awesome crowd, awesome beer, awesome sound, just plain awesome. I came back last Saturday for the Sainte Catherines, and again awesome. This is my new favourite punk bar in Toronto.

HardLuck is great / May 3, 2011 at 12:33 AM
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WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! THIS PLACE IS AWESOME! THE SOUND WAS NEAT AND I LOVED THE PEOPLE THERE! MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE AREA!

Bernadette / June 20, 2011 at 4:35 PM
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Hey all you Heavy Metal Hippies,"Flesh Engine" CD release tour starts June 23rd and Throne of Vengence will be rockin' the Hard Luck on Wednesday July 13th, 2011! Their "Flesh Injection" Canadian tour includes the Circus Room in Kitchener on Saturday July 16th, 2011. Mark your calendars and DON'T MISS THIS BAND while they are around eastern Canada again! Visit their website listed above to find out more about them.

Mauro / January 4, 2012 at 1:56 PM
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They Moved!! Update your info Jessica

suckit / April 1, 2013 at 5:23 PM
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Are you actually fucking kidding me. As a consistent visitor of this bar (not by choice, I assure you) the hard luck has got to be the most disgusting piece of shit I've ever been to - and I LOVE dive bars.

The beer is always either warm or ACTUAL slush, the stage is tiny and badly lit, plus AWFUL sound. The bartender has always been a custy bitch to some men but especially to women, and the bathrooms... Ugh. I'd rather shit in the streets than use that disgusting hole they call a bathroom.

Don't get me wrong, like I said I LOVE dive bars but I feel like I should wear a hazmat suit when I visit this establishment.

maria / September 8, 2013 at 7:56 PM
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going to go see fidlar perform at this bar in october
the reviews seem to be mixed... anything to know for going there your first time?

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