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Toronto Club District

Where restaurants go to die in the Club District

Posted by Staff / July 15, 2010

Club District restaurantsThere are two types of businesses that inhabit the old Maclean Building (345 Adelaide St. West) at the corner of Adelaide and Charlotte.

The first kind occupies the upper five floors of this six-floor mid-rise. They're companies like Red Rover Studios - a special effects and animation company that works with the likes of Pixar, Disney and Universal pictures. These types of businesses - creative studios, ad agencies, software firms - have managed to carve out a symbiotic relationship with the neighbourhood. They're fairly removed from any ground level chaos, they can cover the cost of skyrocketing rent, and they're full of young people.

Danielle Araiche has been an executive producer at Red Rover since 2003. She finds the area quite hospitable.

"It's actually a really great area to work in," she said. "A lot of great restaurants, it's lively, and everything sort of changes over at night; Thursday, Friday and Saturday it's like a whole new culture and that's kind of neat."

But this is where the issues lie for the other businesses at 345 Adelaide. At ground level there's been a revolving door of restaurants that can't seem to make the neighbourhood work for them. It's certainly not for lack of people; with the area bringing in unique demographics day and night, the streets are always busy. So then what's the problem?

Renegade Muay Thai Kickboxing shut its doors in January. The studio still sits dark, sign still up. It seems a combination of high rent and precocious location is to blame for its short life.

One former restaurateur in the area who did not want to be named explains the club culture and lack of policing forced him out after four years in business. It seems that to succeed one must either cater to the daytime crowd, or the nighttime crowd and never the twain shall meet.

Of course, there wasn't always this division between day people and night people. You don't have to go back too far to get to a time when the streets of Adelaide cleared out at dusk.

345 AdelaideBut the real story of 345 Adelaide St. West begins long before even that. Before Clubland, condominiums, ad agencies, film studios and even Zupa's. The real story begins before the building was there itself, with the building's namesake: Hugh Cameron Maclean.

Hugh Cameron Maclean - younger brother to John Bayne Maclean, publishing magnate and founder of Maclean's Publishing Company (later known as Maclean-Hunter) - began his career as a typesetter at a young age. He ran away from his childhood home in Crieff, Ont. to find excitement in the big cities of Toronto and New York, earning a living by apprenticing at a variety of printing houses. By the time his brother entered the publishing game Hugh was already an experienced printer and John brought him on board as his partner.

However, this partnership did not last. When Hugh's wife died at the turn of the century and disagreements over advertising caused a rift in the brothers' relationship, Hugh sold his share of the company to John and moved west. Over the course of the next eight years the young Maclean moved from printing to publishing and upon his return to Toronto, created Hugh C. Maclean Publications and finally, in 1914, built the Hugh C. Maclean Building at 345 Adelaide St. W.

345 Adelaide St. TorontoWith a home for his new company in place, Maclean would finally stay put for the first time in his adult life. The Hugh C. Maclean Publishing Company stayed at 345 Adelaide until Hugh's death in 1949; five years later his company built a modern printery at Don Mills.

In those days the threat of dance music was reserved for the lawlessness of jazz and you were probably more likely to run into a farmer than a restaurant. Today, despite the success of the offices above, the main floor of Hugh Maclean's building lays empty - waiting for another restaurant to take a stab (Grand Ichiban Sushi was the most recent tenant, and before that Autogrill and YYZ). And why not? Business is booming. The top floor occupants, The Jonah Group, recently expanded right out of the building and Red Rover is taking over the free space. The area is always busy; it just doesn't seem to know what kind of neighbourhood it wants to be.

But for many, it's working as is. At Red Rover, Araiche only has one complaint.

"Parking lot prices go up a lot on club night."

Writing by Luke Champion. Photos by Dennis Marciniak



Dennis Marciniak / July 15, 2010 at 10:01 am
I know someone who works over at Red Rover - they park on Bathurst and walk over due to the insane parking rates!
Mike Allan / July 15, 2010 at 10:19 am
I work around the corner from this building on Adelaide. I park at Front and Portland because the rates in the area are so high and climb all the time. Convention on at the MTCC ? Jack the prices. Baseball game? Jack the prices!
em replying to a comment from Dennis Marciniak / July 15, 2010 at 10:19 am
It's $13/day to park in the lot featured in one of the pictures.

The real downside to the building is the elevator. :)
Joe / July 15, 2010 at 10:25 am
how about living close to where you work and biking! I have no simpathy for parking rates. In fact they should be much higher!
Joe / July 15, 2010 at 10:25 am
Really? / July 15, 2010 at 10:45 am
You really do live in a world of your own, Joe. Living wherever you want is not an option to everyone. I guess if people could not afford bread, you'd suggest they eat cake?
Collin / July 15, 2010 at 10:49 am
i wish i can get a hold of some of you peeps paying daily.
i live at Richmond and Spadina and I work in Mississauga, my parking spot sits vacant during the day. I'd love to rent it out!
Mike W replying to a comment from Collin / July 15, 2010 at 11:09 am
Ever try craigslist?
ms / July 15, 2010 at 11:25 am
sure it's not an option for everyone, but how many people actually TRY to find work closer to home?

then there are all the people who COULD take the TTC but CHOOSE to drive.

i'm with Joe - no sympathy. we all need re-evaluate your lives on a more regular basis!

Mike W replying to a comment from ms / July 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm
It may surprise you to learn in the real world it isn't as simple as you think.
skube / July 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm
How about driving half-way and biking/skating/skipping/walking the rest? Though I suppose that doesn't help a night time restaurant.
seanm / July 15, 2010 at 06:08 pm
Why do threads with any mention of cars or parking devolve into a live where you work debate? Quit derailing the discussions, please.
john mark / July 15, 2010 at 07:54 pm
Soemeone told me that there are some white collar sweat shops in this area. Can anyone confirm this?
Gabe / July 16, 2010 at 08:07 am
why drive? its your fault, you do it to yourseelf...
Moe replying to a comment from ms / July 16, 2010 at 09:12 am
Right, because everybody who has a job these days has it for life. So buy a home close to your office downtown and bike there, until you're laid off and have to get a new job in Thornhill or Mississauga and either bike there, or drive there, or put your Toronto pad up for sale, and find a place close to your new job, for however long that lasts. Makes perfect sense.

Bobby / July 16, 2010 at 11:12 am
Why would you drive to a downtown office building? I dont understand people who live and work in Toronto and own cars they cant afford parking for. Take the TTC!
umm hi? / July 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm
So I guess we should all only look for jobs within walking or biking distance? We're so lucky employers hire their employees based on the proximity to their workplaces. AND that we can all afford to just pick up and move to live close to where we work if need be. Because rent is a flat rate in the city.
And as far as the TTC goes, the TTC is not convenient or quick for everyone. And the TTC has proven that it cannot handle the weight of increased patronage, as proven by it's often slow and untimely service, poor customer service and deteriorating transit vehicles.
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