toronto Empringham hotel

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.

See also

toronto st charles hotel

St. Charles Hotel, King and Yonge, 1911.

toronto red lion

The Red Lion Hotel, Yonge and Bloor, 1912.

toronto oyster bar

Oyster Bar, 1913.

toronto silver rail

The Silver Rail, Yonge and Shuter, Toronto's first licensed cocktail lounge.

toronto jolly miller

Jolly Miller Tavern, Yonge Street, 1945.

toronto jolly miller

Jolly Miller Tavern, Yonge Street, 1955.

toronto beauchamp tavern

Beauchamp House (formerly the Greenland Fishery Tavern,) Front and John streets, 1885.

toronto angelos tavern

Angelo's Tavern, Chestnut and Edward, 1955.

toronto brown derby

The Brown Derby, Yonge and Dundas, 1952.

toronto brown derby

The Brown Derby, Yonge and Dundas, 1971.

toronto o'keefe's

O'Keefe's Pub (during tour by Fosters Advertising,) 1956.

toronto colonial tavern

Colonial Tavern, Yonge Street, 1977.

toronto hard rock cafe

Hard Rock Cafe, Yonge and Dundas, 1979.

toronto pretzel tavern

The Pretzel Tavern, Adelaide and Duncan, 1979.

toronto wheat sheaf

The Wheat Sheaf, King and Bathurst, 1981.

toronto horseshoe tavern

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


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