rebel house toronto

Toronto restaurant that's been open 25 years says it may not last another month

Toronto restaurants that have been around for decades are shutting down during the pandemic, and one that's been around for a quarter of a century, The Rebel House, is warning it may not last the summer.

The Rebel House wrote a heartfelt message on one of their windows reading, "The Rebel House appreciates any takeout you can do. Without your help we may not survive the summer!" They also posted a photo of the message to Instagram with the caption, "Another month without customers may be a month too long for us!"

Restaurants have been closed to dine-in service since March, and Rebel House was fully closed for two and a half weeks. Bruce Roberts of Rebel House says they've been doing about 10 per cent of their usual sales, and have only ever seen that grow a little.

"Lots of people in Rosedale have cottages," he says, guessing that when it was announced schools would be shut down many families left town, though he also says there are "just fewer people in general" in the area. 

Rebel House did well selling lots of pantry items at first, but Roberts thinks customers might be growing weary of cooking their own meals once again as sales of those items have slowed down.

Roberts says even though they've been "doing everything to change it up" at Rebel House, beer, liquor and and takeout sales are "not really keeping the doors open." He figures customers would probably "rather go to Loblaws once a week."

In one of the pandemic's most creative marketing tactics, they even made a fake stuffed customer named "Quarantina" to keep the bar company.

"Looking at it this month, numbers haven't picked up," says Roberts. Rebel House's landlord has used the government subsidy, but it runs out at the end of this month, and there are bills other than rent to pay such as hydro and gas.

Rebel House actually paid their April rent in full, so with the subsidy, May, June and a quarter of July are covered. Roberts says he and two others at Rebel House are on CERB, and once that runs out they'll have to rely on wage subsidies, and that margins at the restaurant were already around three to five per cent.

Roberts says "extending subsidies can only help," but that if they get to partially reopen the patio at Rebel House and it's always full, it's forseeable they could stay open. Though apparently for them a partial patio would only mean about four tables, Roberts has still been working on the patio and redoing the furniture in anticipation.

However, he doesn't sound incredibly confident about things ever returning to the way they were.

He says the "whole market has changed" and "won't ever go back," and that at Rebel House they "have to reinvent" and "need help."

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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