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Eat & Drink

Can the Brunswick House and its neighbours get along?

Posted by Guest Contributor / November 27, 2012

Brunswick HouseI arrive at the Brunswick House shortly before last call. It's a Thursday night, and the place is packed. A mass of sweaty bodies dance to the latest top 40 song, beers and cocktails in hand. Outside, two girls are sharing a cigarette. One of them lets out a string of expletives so long, it would make your mother's ears bleed.

As last call finishes up, people start to stream out of the heavy wooden doors. Some run for cabs, others totter drunkenly down the street. One girl declares loudly that she "totally has to have poutine or she'll die." I watch as a group of young men make their way down Brunswick Ave, yelling randomly. Their voices echo off the darkened homes, one of which has a bike with an attached baby seat out front.

A favourite haunt of nearby University of Toronto students, the Brunswick House has had a long, rocky relationship with its Annex neighbours. Patrons of the 'Brunny' (as it is lovingly called) have been accused of a variety of offences (among them - urinating on lawns, fighting and the occasional breaking of nearby store windows) that have left its neighbours irked.

But now the bar, along with the Bloor- Annex BIA, is hoping to change that. The Brunswick House is hiring paid duty officers on its busiest nights to keep the peace (and quiet) in the hope of improving neighbourly relations, and lowering the number of police calls to the area.

Brian Burchell, treasurer of the Bloor-Annex BIA, said the idea started back in August at the BIA's annual town hall when community members voiced their issues with the bar. "They [The Brunswick House] were getting frequent flyer points for how many times police were called to that address," said Burchell. So he decided to do something about it.

Burchell got in touch with the bar's owner, Abbis Mahmoud, and spoke with him about hiring paid duty officers. "Abbis was very responsive to these concerns, he really stepped up to the plate," he said.

Burchell and Mahmoud contacted 14 division, and they recommended hiring one sergeant and four constables. However, the officers didn't come cheap. A sergeant runs about $74 an hour, while one constable costs $65, all paid for out of the bar's pocket.

The officers have been in place about a month now. According to Det. Sgt. Brian Kelly of 14 division, the ramped up police presence is working. "We haven't had any problems," said Kelly. According to Kelly, police calls to the area have dropped, because officers are already on site to deal with any problems that arise.

Burchell says the Brunswick House has a worse reputation than it deserves. "If you're going to be serving 19-year-olds a lot of beer, it's not a bad style of bar. The question is how we manage it."

Will hiring paid duty officers help keep the peace? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Writing by Katie O'Connor



notbad / November 27, 2012 at 11:38 am
Seems like an amicable step in the right direction.

Good for the owner to step up and be willing to incur such costs at his own expense to help placate the wishes of the neighbors.

Bars and university students are always going to be party of the fabric of a city. Just a matter of finding a balance between the two.

Lets be honest here. The Brunny was A LOT worse back in the 80's and 90's when it came to outright debauchery.
The residents have seen it at its worse. When cops didn't really care, or only ever did if full on brawls were occurring there.

Onwards and upwards!
BitchesLeave / November 27, 2012 at 11:41 am
"Burchell says the Brunswick House has a worse reputation than it deserves." I think the reputation is deserved.
j-rock / November 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm
It's a dump, but it's a dump that's been enjoyed by generations of undergrads. I'm at least a decade too old to even set foot in the place, but I had a couple of pretty fun nights there back when the most stressful thing in my life was midterms.
Big Fuckin Mega Boat replying to a comment from j-rock / November 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Indeed, I picked up a slam pig or two here back in the day.

If you assume the officers are there for about 3 hours (12-3 say), you're only looking at around a grand, which isn't actually that bad (and I'm sure easily recouped in drink sales). Very admirable of the bar's owner to do this when he could have just said "F@ck you".
Chris on Bay St / November 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm
U of T founded 1827. Brunny founded 1876. Looong before any of their neighbours were even born. Lesson here is to do your research before you purchase a home.
Jer / November 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm
Good to see a business owner stepping up to the plate but at the same time I think the bigger issue is the lack of respect people have for others. Being drunk isn't an excuse to yell at the top of your lungs, urinate in public, etc. No amounts of drinking have made me feel the need to yell and wake up people at 2 am.
Comes down to people respecting others. They are probably the same people that litter during the day and don't pick up after their own dogs.
roger replying to a comment from Big Fuckin Mega Boat / November 27, 2012 at 01:12 pm
"slam pig" really? what does that make you if you use terms like that?
Khristopher / November 27, 2012 at 01:19 pm
How about refusing to serve people when they're already drunk? No can't do that, that would mean less money for the owner!
Todd replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 01:36 pm
Alexander replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 27, 2012 at 01:48 pm
Totally reasonable point...I think we should use "founding date" as a reason to ensure that situations or realities never change! It certainly behooves the city to say "hey, this is a pricey area where people pay lots of taxes but a dump of a bar has been here forever so let's ignore that because it was here first".

How about this...nowhere in the city of Toronto are you allowed to urinate in maybe, just maybe, the Brunswick does not get carte blanche to serve 19 years olds until they are to the point of passing out.
Bobby / November 27, 2012 at 01:55 pm
All we need is a law where cops can arrest you if they smell Axe Body Spray, like how they can probably arrest you if they smell booze. So many social problems will disappear overnight.
roger replying to a comment from Todd / November 27, 2012 at 02:15 pm
Or you know I'm offended on my behalf because I don't like women thinking all men talk like that. Or you know because it's right to find that offensive because I am not stuck in an archaic cave man state of mind.
Cyril Sneer replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 02:48 pm
It was funny. It invokes a funny image. Yeeesssh.
Rex replying to a comment from Chris on Bay St / November 27, 2012 at 03:12 pm
Exactly. You knew full well the Brunny was there when you bought the place. Every now and then a kid is going to piss on your lawn -- that was part of the bargain when you bought it.

Don't buy a house beside the tracks and then whine about the trains.
toooldforthis replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 03:13 pm
His handle is "Big Fuckin Mega Boat" and he uses the term "slam pig". What does that make him? Captain D-bag. You'll find him here:
j-rock replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 03:21 pm
Do you happen to know what "Roger" means in the UK? Maybe you shouldn't be so hard on Mega Boat. ;)
Big Fuckin Mega Boat replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 03:26 pm
Roger, it makes me a dude. Oh, and your "archaic cave man" comment made me cry. I hope you feel bad now.
Todd replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 03:29 pm
Your premise is what's really offensive... i.e. women are so stupid they think that all men speak like that.

You need to fix your attitude, mister. Women have long developed a capacity to think for themselves.
Skye / November 27, 2012 at 03:37 pm
In all fairness: there's no reports of any of the neighbours whining about drunken, noisy undergrads. Most people in The Annex (presumably)knew the place has served generations of students before they moved there.Sounds more like The Brunny is being proactive to me.
Steven / November 27, 2012 at 04:10 pm
Does anybody remember Diamond Lil Sheperd? She was the waitress who dressed up and sang away. She was even on tv at one point. Ah, the good old days when beer was cheap and they served pickled eggs.
Chris / November 27, 2012 at 04:35 pm
I saw a a pretty violent and noisy fight a weekend or two ago outside the Brunny (it seemed like someone was beaten pretty badly) and I didn't see any cops there trying to settle this down. In particular I saw a man lying on the street in front of the Brunny, blocking traffic as he was beaten to the ground and then his face kicked in. Isn't this a type of thing that the police officers should try to stop?
Alex replying to a comment from Chris / November 27, 2012 at 05:35 pm
Did you call the police or attempt to get a description of the agressor? Can't expect cops to magically appear if we're all going to cater to the by-stander effect.
Ryan / November 27, 2012 at 06:12 pm
First off, it's great that the bar is working with the community by hiring the paid duties. Being an active participant in making your neighbourhood and its people safer is always commendable. It should also be noted that for years now they have employed double the amount of security that is legally required by law which has in fact lead to a dramatic decrease in violence and vandalism in the neighbourhood over the past 5 years. However, I feel that the neighbours and the police and anyone else who blames the bar completely should actually dig a little deeper.
First off there are several other bars in the immediate area-The Pump, The Lab, Lee's Palace, Madison Avenue Pub all of which serve students on the regular. I have lived in the annex for 15 years and have seen trouble at all of these places. Broken windows or peeing on lawns. How is that the responsibility of any bar. You can't control people once they exit your establishment. If they exit of their own will at any time then over service to the point of severe intoxication can't be the issue either. Face it, some people are assholes drunk or sober. Place the onus where it is due! On the individual committing the offence. How does anyone even know for sure these individuals are always from the Brunny. They can be from any bar in the city but its easier to blame the big bad Brunny due to its reputation.

How many of us have been down town in the last 10 years????? I have seen absolute wars on Richmond Street. I have seen windows being smashed, people laying on the ground puking, people running right over the hoods of cars, fires being started. Let me guess, its the Brunny's fault as well. LoL. Apparently, every person responsible for anyththing negative in the Annex must be from the Brunny and must be over served and must not be responsible for themselves because they decided to party at the Brunny. If I ever cheat on my wife or decide to steal something I will make sure my alibi was that its not my fault because I was at the Brunny!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SD / November 27, 2012 at 06:55 pm

These guys run their security. No wonder the place is calming down. The mafia runs the place. Seriously though, I used to go there all the time. These guys don't play around. I've seen how they got rid of the trouble.
SD / November 27, 2012 at 07:13 pm

These guys run their security. No wonder the place is calming down. The mafia runs the place. lol. Seriously though, I used to go there all the time. These guys don't play around
amy replying to a comment from roger / November 27, 2012 at 08:15 pm
Hi Roger, thank you for at least trying to stand up for something. Though many people don't seem to agree with you, as a girl I found "slam pig" a shockingly disgusting term for educated conversation. I wouldn't be one to go over tiny little minutia of PC conversation, but that one was particularly harsh. I know I'll get backlash for saying that, but it is refreshing to see a guy point that out.
And seriously guys on the internet about to jump all over this comment, I'm not going to read it, I'm tired of hearing "lighten up" to disgusting crap like that but if I were to call you something vanilla like a "creep" you'd jump all over me for being a "stuck up bitch" and yadda yadda, you don't have honest insight into what it feels like to be spoken about like the above (in my experience anyways).
simpleton / November 27, 2012 at 09:02 pm
at the risk of sounding unintelligent, i'll simply say-

fuck the brunny. as a u of t student i knew it attracted an ugly crowd, and any bar that requires cops to function is catering to a bad scene. it's filled with people that can't handle their alcohol- and the bar's making a (presumably lucrative) living off it.
punks / November 27, 2012 at 09:16 pm
All the city has to do is send an undercover guy into the shithole and bust them for
a) overserving
b) serving underagers
c) recycling beer (oh wait - they already got busted for that pukeworthy offence a few years ago didn't they)

Irene is spinning in her grave at the thought of these a-holes dry humping each other to shitty oomsk oomsk music on her stage.
seanm / November 27, 2012 at 10:17 pm
I think the only logical response is to go start fights and piss all over the places that Brunny patrons live. U of T dorms and the suburbs to start I suppose. 416ers should go eye for an eye and hit them where they live. Early in the morning too, since they'll all be recovering from a night of urinating and fighting by the residences in the Annex.
P / November 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm
If the Brunswick has so many problems they close their doors, and Ford loses his dumb-ass appeal..
I say we fill downtown with 3 million people to sing carols..
Chris replying to a comment from Alex / November 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm
Well, my comment is more that I don't think police were there two weeks ago on a busy weekend night when apparently, as the article claimed, they would be. As the article said, the officers have been in place for about a month now. If officers were there, as they apparently were, I would expect them to see something like this happening right outside the Brunny doors. I think my implication is that they were probably not there, and I am seeking clarification as to how long they have actually been there for.
Student / November 28, 2012 at 01:22 am
I'd argue the Brunny is NOT frequented by UofT students. Maybe a few, but hardly the majority.

I'm also tired of hearing the Annex is student populated. What student can afford a house that costs around a million dollars?
McRib / November 28, 2012 at 02:55 am
i don't think they are buying the houses.
the lemur replying to a comment from McRib / November 28, 2012 at 09:15 am
They're also not renting as much in that neighbourhood as they used to. Also, it's not just about the people who live nearby - drunk and disorderly Brunny patrons are also a nuisance to clients and staff of other businesses in the area.
Todd / November 28, 2012 at 09:43 am
Sorry, but this place sucks. It attracts dumbasses looking for cheap sex and cheaper liquor. It seems like no one who goes there regularly can handle either without some kind of drama. Not a good scene. Avoid.

It's had a terrible reputation for years and with very good reason. I can't say the same about most of the other bars in the area.
SD replying to a comment from the lemur / November 28, 2012 at 10:17 am
I agree with Ryan's comment above. IF any business is open as late as the brunny it's usually because they desire the business such as subway, sarah's schwarma and pita q who specifically stay open based upon how busy the brunny and Madison avenue pub are. Again, there are several bars that offer cheap drinks and over service such as the lab(3 dollar special everynight) and the madison( $3 dollar drinks and no cover all night long on Thursday, student night). Brunny is not the best bar in the world but you people really need to get your heads out of your asses if you think all the trouble in the neighbourhood comes from one place when you have several competitors on the same block offering cheaper booze and less responsibility.
wut replying to a comment from SD / November 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm
the brunnie certainly isn't the sole offender, but speaking annecdotally, it seems to have the highest concentration of assholes under one roof.
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