Wednesday, July 29, 2015Partly Cloudy 25°C

Red Light

Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko

Posted by Guest Contributor / July 7, 2009

For those who associate West Queen West and Ossington with the word gentrification, The Red Light is perched just on the periphery, far enough away from the action to ease any moral qualms one may have.

For those who do not over-analyze the socio-economic implications of their bar choice, The Red Light is simply a cozy spot with the right amount of grunginess and gaudiness to make it hip.

Essentially, the owners of Sweaty Betty's took their model of a local trend-setting watering hole and duplicated it up the street. (UPDATE: The owner is now Nick Savage) Red Light captures the same vibe as Sweaty Betty's - a dimly lit, narrow, cramped space adorned with thrift store furnishings that turns up the music a little too loud - but far enough away from the uber-trendy West Queen West and South Ossington spots to filter out the undesired 905ers that locals are so bent on tarring and feathering.

As has become a recent trend in the west end, The Red Light's signage and front window do not indicate that a bar lies within. In fact, the black awning above the window says nothing at all, making it difficult to spot the bar upon one's first visit. When my friends told me to meet them at the Red Light shortly after its opening, I must have walked past it three times. I almost gave up and went to nearby bar Ports, which blares Euro dance beats and has a flashing red light at its entrance - what I assumed to be my friends' poor attempt at an ironic joke.

The Red Light also has a red light at its entrance, though the bar opts for a more subdued vintage red lantern in the front window. As is the case at sister bar Sweaty Betty's, on most nights it will be difficult to find a spot at one of the few tables and you will have to be at least a little assertive to get attention at the bar.

The bar itself carries the usual Ontario offerings like Amsterdam and Creemore and stocks an impressive roster of imports. In a move that is unique to any bar in Toronto, the owners have partnered with local eateries to provide delivery directly to Red Light patrons. So, despite the fact that the bar does not have an in-house kitchen, drinkers can still whet their appetites without heading down the street.

Although The Red Light sports a longer bar than Sweaty Betty's, it's still difficult to get a spot at it. Regardless, it's still worth fighting for, especially if you are staunch opponent of gentrification.

Writing by By Ian Leipurts

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
8 on tap including Creemore, Amsterdam Blonde, Labatt 50
Signature Drink:
7 brands of bourbon
Bar Snacks:
No kitchen, but has a partnership with many local eateries to deliver food to you right in the bar
Jukebox contains funk and rock 45s spanning the 60s, 70s, 80s primarily
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Local hipsters disillusioned with West Queen West, “art” types, emerging yuppies still grasping some grungy relevance
4pm-2am daily



baffled mcbaffledson / July 7, 2009 at 5:23 PM

dude, quoi le fuck.
i have never even heard of this bar and i live @ college & ossington.
i looked @ the pictures before reading the review and immediately said, "looks like sweaty bettys"
then i read the review.
i do not understand the point of having 2 identical bars on the same stretch, especially if one of them is a lot less known.
this is a weird business move.
i am baffled.

LMIH / July 7, 2009 at 6:29 PM

How is the notion of opening up a bar that will pack in the patrons and have a constant liquor flow baffling?

With so many people in that area and mucho-bar-overflow, I'd own a dozen bars if I had the cash and property.

annoyed / July 7, 2009 at 6:35 PM

To baffled mcbaffledson (good one!). just because you live in the neighborhood and dont know where it is, doesnt mean its not a rad bar. if you looked closely, you would notice that it doesnt look like betty's at all. while betty's is a tattoo themed bar with dark red walls and furniture on it's last legs, the red light is more of a bordello, with dark grey walls (yes, the back room is dark red, but stenciled and interesting.) and beautiful paintings of victorian portraits of women. the bar itself is absolutly beautiful. the furniture may be used, but its not gross to sit on- as it seems to be at other places.
maybe before you shit on a new up and coming place (probably because you JUST found out about it and are more upset about not being in the know), you should open your closed mind and check it out.
p.s. the owner of betty's is a 50/50 partner of the red light.

DS / July 8, 2009 at 8:35 AM

That's one fugly couch.

Show&Tell / July 8, 2009 at 10:59 AM

Love this place, killer jukebox...

Hopefully the patio issues get sorted.

Keep it up guys!

sheepway / July 9, 2009 at 1:42 AM

sexy review.

Bea H. / February 22, 2010 at 10:47 PM

Comfortable but simultaneously sexy atmosphere, Red Light doesn't try too hard, instead its innate style is a testament to the owners. It's definitely my favourite of the news bars thanks to the service and quality selection of liquor.

pass / July 16, 2010 at 9:29 AM

This bar is nice but the bartender was somewhat of a douche bag. Personally I'll take my business somewhere that values a customer, their money and their presence.

It's ironic that i read in an article that this bar wanted to have no ***holes but hired one to serve.

Annie / November 6, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Love this bar! Amazing vibe... I've found my new watering hole

Jonny / November 29, 2011 at 5:54 PM

I love this bar, spend on average 2-3 nights a week here even if it's to get out of the house and grab one drink. Love the crowd, friendly bar staff, and good tunes (usually have someone spinning vinyls). What's not to love?

Greg / February 11, 2012 at 3:04 PM

All I know is I went there for the first time and I saw chillin' atmosphere and heard Herbie and the Headhunters and I was happy.

Amanda / October 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

bartender still a douche bag.

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Montreal