rose and crown toronto

Toronto pub says they might be forced to close after 40 years in business

Before it's even fully able to reopen, a 40-year-old Toronto pub and restaurant faces closure this summer.

The Rose and Crown has been a staple in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood since 1979. Now the couple who own it, Lisa Duff and Johnny Rafferty, are unsure how much longer they can hang on.

The pub’s landlord applied for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program but that only covered April, May and June.

“The future is so uncertain for July moving forward and unless we get some rent relief or if the government steps up and extends that program, we are in big trouble,” Duff told blogTO.

To put more pressure on the couple — they are expecting their first baby this month. Rafferty said they need to plan ahead.

“I have a baby on the way, I have enough stress in my life right now, I need to know — should I start looking for other job opportunities,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty suggests the government provide funding to pub and restaurants directly rather than to the landlords.

The Rose and Crown is a special place for the couple who met working in the pub. Duff worked there through her university days. They bought it 12 years ago and don’t want to see it go.

If they reopen at 50 per cent capacity, they won’t survive, Rafferty added. There will also be all the costs related to opening safely such as Plexiglass dividers, masks and more staff to increase cleaning protocols.

Since April 8, they have been operating with take-out service but it is not enough to keep them going even though regular customers have been supportive.

“We are not even breaking even with take-out (service) so we are losing money. Lisa and I are not even paying ourselves,” he said.

In normal times, the pub was a gathering place that could hold 250 people and thrived on live music nights and events. They now have to rethink the entire business model.

“The whole concept of our business is the complete opposite concept of social distancing,” said Duff. “Sports have been cancelled, we are not allowed live music…so we are going to have to come up with a different business plan.”

Duff suggested live music venues should be a separate category for government support. All live music venues, pubs and restaurants need financial support right now, she said. A recent survey found 50 per cent of independent restaurants won’t survive the next three months without rent relief.

“Until we are allowed to have those busy Friday, Saturday nights, we are going to need some sort of support,” Duff said.

Rafferty and Duff said they can’t imagine what it will be like for pubs post-pandemic.

“It is going to be a totally different world when you go to a restaurant or pub — especially a pub where the whole point is to mingle and meet people,” Duff said.

Lead photo by

Carey Lynn Smith

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