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No One Writes to the Colonel

Photo: Dennis Marciniak

Posted by Robyn Urback / June 4, 2011

No One Writes to the Colonel feels just like a 70's throwback lounge, but more homey than groovy, and laid-back than swank. First off, it's in a house, formerly a doctor's office, on College just west of Bathurst. Then the signage--there's little of it. Right now, it's just gold lettering spelling out "No One Writes to the Colonel" on the mailbox by the door. "We haven't decided yet if we're going to do something bigger," co-owner Martin Smits tells me.

Inside, there's a fireplace, painted white and surrounded by low vintage furniture. Hanging lamps glow over sections by the windows, which are covered by mismatched plaid curtains. The bar in the centre is the main focal point, though, made of dark wood and antique backlit tiles.

"There wasn't really an idea for the space," Smits says. "We just started finding things and the concept evolved from there."

"The wood for that bar," he continues, motioning toward the side bar with saddle stools, "came from my grandparents barn. The records are from my grandmother's collection."

Those records have been fixed to the wall behind the stage. Another wall is covered with vintage sepia floral wallpaper from Smash in the Junction, and some others boast art by Sabine Liva, who happens to be the wife of Smits' partner.

Smits, who was born in Toronto but whose family is from Latvia, was living in Latvia for 10 years prior to opening the Colonel. His friend, who was in the club business, suggested they open a bar in Toronto, seeing as Sabine's work brought then to Toronto for five months a year.

After initially opening just for private functions and special events - they host the weekly Short & Sweet film screenings as well as The Moth events - they are now fully up and running. "I don't want to be the new 'hot spot,'" Smits says. "So many places in Toronto like that start hard and fizzle out."

"There are lots of places for students around here, but I want this to be an adult place."

There are still some things to figure out, including exact pricing ("we'll probably just charge whatever other places in the area are charging for a pint"), precise hours ("we'll be open for coffee, lunch, and we have free WiFi"), and how to make sure live bands don't piss off the neighbours ("there's a decibel meter behind the bar"). The name, however, was a sure-thing from the get-go.

"Actually, there's a No One Writes to the Colonel in Latvia," Smits says. "That's the original; my partner opened it a few years back then sold if off to finance this one."

Named for a novella by Gabriel García Márquez, Smits says he thinks the architect was on a Márquez kick at the time, and designed the space for the bar in Latvia with the novella in mind.

"Toronto also has a vibrant literary community, so I think it works," Smits says. "And Toronto has too many single-word bars anyway."

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Pale Ale, Cream Ale, Apricot Wheat
Signature Drink:
Mojito shot
Bar Snacks:
Soup, salads, Latvian pīrāgi. Full menu coming soon.
Everything but house
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Grad students, young professionals, some silver hair
Open 10am daily



geoff / June 4, 2011 at 11:39 AM

'Colombian' Literature you mean?

ritz / June 4, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Great looking furniture. Looks like a cozy space.
Only thing, there doesn't appear to be much overhang of the bar countertop under which your legs would go while sitting at the bar. You'd have to lean forward pretty far to rest on it with your elbows, which wouldn't be very comfortable after a few minutes.

Random Reader / June 6, 2011 at 12:11 PM

"we'll probably just charge whatever other places in the area are charging for a pint"

noticing the prices on the chalkboard in picture 1, they'll have to lower the pint prices from $6.25 if they plan on staying competitive with places in that area (considering the closest places to it are Nirvana, Sneaky Dee's and the Crown and Tiger).

Cat / June 6, 2011 at 12:33 PM

There's also a comedy night at No One Writes called the Indie Comedy Hour. Please check it out!

Nick / June 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM

FYI the bar is comfortable to sit at. Overhang is just right. Pint of beer was $5.50 when I went, so they must have received the neighbourhood memo on prices. And I have to say, their snacks are fantastic. Crostini (which isn't listed) is delicious and the pīrāgi is one of the greatest things I've ever eaten.

michael / June 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM

By the looks of the place i doubt they are going for the Sneaky Dees- Tiger Bar- Nirvana "crowd"

Random Reader In replying to a comment from michael / June 8, 2011 at 9:06 AM

while they may not be aiming for the same crowd, they are really the only other places to get a drink within a block or two radius which is why I questioned the "we'll probably just charge whatever other places in the area are charging for a pint" quote.

Anna / June 8, 2011 at 8:01 PM

This place is great - very unique ambiance for college, amazing furniture and art, and the staff are really friendly! Looking forward to going here more this summer!

Maggedy Ann / June 8, 2011 at 9:53 PM

They're also a great venue to book for private events. Bartenders are charming and the drinks are delicious and unique.

michael / June 11, 2011 at 3:26 PM

RE Random reader you can also go to Andy Poolhall (Across the street) Negroni- Briscolla- Grace - Teatro all within a block west.

Lalaine / July 1, 2011 at 2:06 AM

Heck of a job there, it absuoltely helps me out.

Sharkey / July 31, 2011 at 2:29 AM

Great place - sat at the bar for a good hour, and enjoyed the athletic drinks preparation going on before us. Could have stayed there all night - bar staff all have great personality (say hi to AJ from the bar-hopping guys, if he's in).

Wendell / August 5, 2011 at 11:13 PM

As a visitor from the States who basically lucked into Simcoe Day, No One Writes To The Colonel proved to be one of the world's great bars. It arguably has the best lighting I've ever seen in a bar, and the St. Ambroise Apricot was one of the beer highlights of my trip. The service was marvelous and friendly, the mojito-making hypnotic, and the film series a brilliant idea. If I ever return to Toronto, I will make it a priority to visit the place once more, and this time to actually dare one of the mojitos.

AJH / August 19, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Is there a number to this place? Or someone I can contact to possibly book a private event?

ryan / September 6, 2011 at 3:40 PM

...I'm also looking for a contact name and number to book a private party. If anyone from the bar is reading this blog- can you please post your contact information?

Disease In replying to a comment from AJH / September 27, 2011 at 10:56 PM


I don't work at the bar but I went to scope it out and just booked my bday there. You can make it a completely private event or just reserve a section, great to have BOTH options.

The place looks and feels so laid-back, just AWESOME. Exactly my type of place - nothing crazy, over-the-top. Just simple, yet so unique compared to most bars. Here's their contact:

Phone: 416-928-6777

Disease In replying to a comment from ryan / September 27, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Look at my above reply.

Jim / September 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM

I loved the atmosphere and ambiance of the bar. The only thing is there bartenders are terrible. What a bunch of smirking lazy d-bags. I can't believe the owners of this place tolerate that level of inactivity from bar staff. I could only shake my head in bewilderment as they seemingly did everything possible not to serve people.

The PA Solution / June 11, 2013 at 12:20 PM

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