clintons toronto

Clinton's Tavern reopens under new ownership and former staff are not happy

If you've lived in Toronto for any length of time, you'll more than likely be familiar with the city's longest-running haunts — many of which have sadly been forced to shutter in recent months due to rent hikes, COVID-19, and more.

We lost one of these beloved staples, Clinton's Tavern, completely out of the blue back in February due to what staff referred to as a "careless owner" who allowed the bar to fall into disarray, defaulted on the rent and consequently got the property seized by the landlord.

But with their faith in the 83-year-long legacy of the Bloor Street West watering hole, tenured Clinton's employees and even the landlord held out hope that they could find a suitable new owner to help restore the bar to its former glory.

And now, the bar has indeed been purchased and has resumed operations under new ownership — but the news isn't all good, as it's running without any of the old team, despite all of their hard work and calls for someone to step forward and work with them.

"We remained in contact with the landlord, were still in talks with people that were interested in Clinton's and were trying to find someone that would be a really good fit because we wanted to see the bar carry on in the same manner, just with upgrades," says long-time Clinton's events manager Lindsay Darling.

But unexpectedly, Darling and late GM Christina Spencer found out on social media, of all places, that the establishment had reopened to the public after switching hands without their knowledge.

"We were dumbfounded because we hadn't, to that point, known what was going on," Darling said, adding that the former team has nothing against the landlord, who ended up selling Clinton's to upstairs neighbour Echo Karaoke.

The new owner contacted Darling and Spencer to ask for control of Clinton's popular social media pages. Darling and Spencer then informed other former employees about the change in ownership.

"Where I am kind of astounded is that this is a person that obviously intimately knew that situation because we're neighbours, yet didn't acknowledge it or say, 'hey, I'm really sorry for how this ended,'" Spencer says.

"We'd love to work in good will with him, but these are accounts that have been built over the years based upon the efforts of previous staff in building that bar to what it was."

The duo now worries about the future of the bar and whether it will end up resembling what customers know and love, which was in huge part the staff and level of service.

"We think it's going to be a lot different than it was, and what people want right now is something that feels familiar. But it looks like he's just going to do an overhaul," they say.

"We wish him the best and hope they succeed, we want Clinton's to live forever. It's just shocking and unfortunate because I think it's a bit short-sighted to try and rebuild something that was already great."

The new owners of Clinton's have not responded to requests for comment.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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