Roxy Bar has picked up where the Charlotte Room left off. After 17 years of business, the former pool hall closed due to its lease being up. A short-term lease was put on the table, but the owner, Rob Torres decided to move along.
Then something interesting happened. Four of the original front-of-house employees at Charlotte Room banded together. They all wanted to open and run their own bar. Three months later they re-opened the nearly 5,000 square-foot billiards paradise as Roxy Bar.
"I think the main reason we opened Roxy Bar here is that when this place shut down for three months, everyone kept texting and emailing us asking where did you guys go, where are our bartenders?" explains Clarice Azevedo, a director at Roxy Room. "I was shocked at how upset people were. I didn't realize how much this local bar meant to some people."
That was enough of a drive to re-open the bar. They threw on a new coat of paint, splashed some Toronto art on the walls, added of a couple dart boards, some pinball machines, and a small stage in the back for comedy shows. And the seven pool tables were all freshly felted.
When I drop by on a quiet Sunday afternoon, a coterie of older gentleman are throwing back some pints and shooting pool. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" is filling the room and a football game is playing on the projector in the backroom.
The bartender, immediately jovial as he was possibly bored, is quick to offer me a drink. Roxy Bar, like the Charlotte Room, is welcoming to say the least. It makes sense why there were impassioned pleas to bring it back. There's a little something for everyone.
Nestled between some condos and offices on Charlotte, a stubby little street squeezed between King and Adelaide, you have to seek it out. The pool hall isn't flashy (it is a pool hall, after all), but it is massive. With dim, warm lights and some mini-rooms, the space is yet somehow cozy. At first glance, it strikes me as the perfect place for a holiday staff party.
The food is your typical pub fare at downtown Toronto price points with some slight upgrades. The Signature Nachos, brimming with all the classic fixings, will run you $15, the Weeds Pizza with eggplant, zucchini and sundried tomatoes is $12, and the Roxy Beef Burger runs at $14.
The pool tables are pay-for-what-you-play in 15 minute intervals, or $20 for an hour. Board games are free. Drinks are not.
The hook is that the lease is still up in the spring. But Roxy Bar will live on, I'm told. According to Hannah Watson, another co-owner, they are already hunting for the next space in a two block radius.
"We want to bring our pool tables with us. It's gonna happen," says Watson.
Writing and photography by Ryan Bolton