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