clintons toronto

Clinton's Tavern staff speak out after dramatic closure

Days after the sudden and unexpected closure of long-running Clinton's Tavern sent shockwaves through Toronto, former staff are holding out hope that there still may be a future for the legendary bar and venue.

Employees announced across social media on February 21 that the establishment had shuttered, effective immediately, after 83 years in business at the corner of Clinton Street and Bloor Street West.

The bar's goodbye posting, which has now been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, cited "lies and greed" and a "careless" owner who made it difficult for the dedicated Clinton's team to keep it running.

The abruptness of the news is because the property was, in fact, seized by the landlord for overdue rent, according to long-time events manager Lindsay Darling.

"The owner was given lots of opportunities to keep the business afloat. Clinton's is profitable and has been for some time," Darling says. "The landlord really tried to work with said owner to ensure that he could keep running the business... [but] we've been locked out for non-payment."

In the past year, management has been in the dark about the bar's financial situation and future in general.

"We didn't know what was going to happen, but we definitely didn't think it would be this," Darling says.

Thankfully, staff have found a glimmer of hope in the location's landlord, who continues to be a champion for the tavern and seems to have a vested interest in finding a way to keep Clinton's alive — much like the employees, who have been trying to push forward over a number of difficult months, going to extravagant lengths and even using their own money at times to keep the business open.

"The landlord doesn't want it to be turned into a Starbucks or a McDonald's; he really is committed to keeping it Clinton's," Darling says. 

"My hope is that someone will step in that is familiar with the business and would be willing to work with [current staff] to re-open it and bring back all of the programming as it was."

And that hope is what is still giving the family of employees some drive while the bar remains closed indefinitely. Staff are still brainstorming solutions to revive it — along with a public plea for a miracle investor to come forward — while also having to search for other jobs.

The bar's devoted regulars have even toyed with the idea of splitting the business into shares.

"We're really hopeful," Darling adds. "The outpouring of love and support is incredible. Obviously it means something to some people in Toronto and that's what keeps us going."

In the meantime, singing collective Choir!Choir!Choir! — a regular staple of Clinton's programming — is hosting a fundraiser for the Clinton's team tonight at Lee's Palace.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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