What bars used to look like in Toronto
For as long as there's been a Toronto (or York,) there have been bars and pubs. The earliest drinking establishments often doubled as general stores, hotels, community meeting places, and restaurants. The Toronto Coffee House--the first business to include "Toronto" in its name--was one such early establishment. Opened in December 1801 by William Cooper, who was variously a wharf keeper, teacher, auctioneer, and coroner, the establishment served brandy, wine, and London porter beer.
Cooper said he hoped to operate his coffee house "as nearly on the footing of an English inn as local circumstances" would allow. As it happened, early Toronto had a shortage of public buildings, and it appears at least one coroner's inquest was held at Cooper's tavern.
Since then, Toronto has embraced alcohol, seen banned it completely during prohibition, and accepted restrictive laws that still limit its availability outside of bars. Despite an 11-year dry spell, many of Toronto's oldest drinking establishments can trace more than a hundred years of history.
Here's what Toronto bars used to look like.
- The 5 oldest bars in Toronto
- A brief history of Toronto's first cocktail lounge
- That time Toronto got its first taste of the LCBO
- A brief history of the Horseshoe Tavern
- A brief history of The Rex Hotel
- A brief history of the Silver Dollar Room
St. Charles Hotel, King and Yonge, 1911.
The Red Lion Hotel, Yonge and Bloor, 1912.
Oyster Bar, 1913.
The Silver Rail, Yonge and Shuter, Toronto's first licensed cocktail lounge.
Jolly Miller Tavern, Yonge Street, 1945.
Jolly Miller Tavern, Yonge Street, 1955.
Beauchamp House (formerly the Greenland Fishery Tavern,) Front and John streets, 1885.
Angelo's Tavern, Chestnut and Edward, 1955.
The Brown Derby, Yonge and Dundas, 1952.
The Brown Derby, Yonge and Dundas, 1971.
O'Keefe's Pub (during tour by Fosters Advertising,) 1956.
Colonial Tavern, Yonge Street, 1977.
Hard Rock Cafe, Yonge and Dundas, 1979.
The Pretzel Tavern, Adelaide and Duncan, 1979.
The Wheat Sheaf, King and Bathurst, 1981.
The Horseshoe Tavern, Queen Street West.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Images: Beauchamp House, 1855, Toronto Public Library, B 11-19b; Empringham Hotel, 1900, Toronto Public Library, 966-2-13; St. Charles Hotel, 1911, City of Toronto Archives; Red Lion Hotel, 1912, Toronto Public Library, JRR 716 Cab; Oyster Bay Lunch Counter, 1913, City of Toronto Archives; Jolly Miller Tavern, 1945/1955, City of Toronto Archives; Brown Derby, 1952/1971, City of Toronto Archives; Angelo's Tavern, 1955, Toronto Public Library, S 1-2315; O'Keefe's Pub, 1956, City of Toronto Archives; Colonial Tavern, 1977, City of Toronto Archives; Hard Rock Cafe, 1979, City of Toronto Archives; The Pretzel Tavern, 1979, City of Toronto Archives; The Wheat Sheaf, 1981, City of Toronto Archives; Patrick Cummins