Stones Place proves that there's no such thing as aging gracefully: not when it comes to hard-living rock stars, not when it comes to their women, and certainly not when it comes to the themed bar business. At its heyday, Stones Place's velvet-roped, red-carpeted doorsteps brimmed with partygoers, eager to get inside. Parkdale was a sleepier neighbourhood then; as a newcomer to the city I had witnessed the line for myself from a streetcar window. The hordes remain, but Toronto's become a tougher crowd to please.
It goes without saying that this place is a tribute to the Rolling Stones . Ten bucks cover will get you inside, where a picture of a still-menacing, still-handsome Mick Jagger greet you; the first of many, which pepper the walls. Stones Place's furniture also echoes the theme, which boasts multiple couches ("lounges," I'm told, and a hard commodity to come by on most evenings), rugs, and just enough lamps to illuminate the place. Even its menu is permeated, with themed sandwiches such as the Mick Jagger (a panini with roasted peppers, cucumber, cheese, arugula, and hummus) and the Ruby Tuesday (corned beef with thousand-island dressing and sauerkraut on rye) priced at $10.
All the gimmicks are fine, even charming when the bar's empty and quiet. Stones Place's biggest problem is the people inside it. It's not the crowd--which is a fine one, and is exuberant without being boisterous--but the mere fact that it is a living, breathing reminder of modernity. Once that kind of fanatic nostalgia is marinated in its present, it's perverted into anachronism--a good 2,000 square footage's worth.
The transformation from shtick to downright farce was complete at my visit to the (completely ordinary) washroom, in which there is an actual attendant waiting with a plastic squeezy bottle of Ivory and an industrial roll of paper towels, alongside multiple bottles of perfumes and lotions on the soap-scummy counter. I've yet to figure out why the venue's proprietors found this necessary. Particularly when the tip jar at the bar says "even skanks say thanks."
Judgements aside, Stones Place isn't a bad place to be. The vibe is relaxed and carefree, and the music is fun, if a little rockabilly jamboree at times. If you're looking for an irony-free good time, few venues are more appropriate in the city (those planning bachelorette parties, take note). Just arrive before eleven to avoid the line.