sneaky dees closing

Sneaky Dee's in Toronto won't be closing after all

Sneaky Dee's is the latest addition to the list of Toronto staples that residents are mourning the impending closure of after an application was submitted just before the Labour Day long weekend to turn the belovedly grungy bar, restaurant and live music venue into a 13-storey mixed-use development.

But while the city still reels from the tragic news, the establishment's owners are assuring patrons not to fear, because it can and will survive anything — even dreaded redevelopment into one of the flavourless condo highrises that seem to be becoming the city's most characteristic feature.

"There will be two Sneaky Dee's before there are none," jokes the team behind the Tex-Mex punk mecca, which has served as a family-run mainstay on the corner of College and Bathurst for 30 years.

Its storied history started three years prior to that at its first location across from Honest Ed's on Bloor, and it has become an iconic spot to drink, dine and dance for tourists, visiting bands, and locals alike during its tenure — a tenure that we can rest assured will not be coming to an end anytime soon.

Management says that even if the proposal for the construction project for 419, 421, 423, 429 and 431 College Street is approved, "these things take a long time," and any changes are still a few years away.

The redevelopment of the block is also notably contingent upon maintaining a live music venue on the corner, which current owners hope will stay under the Sneaks banner.

But if not, relocating once more is always an option, though staying in the neighbourhood would be ideal.

"When we're dead, that's when Sneaky Dee's will be gone," ownership says. "Hopefully past that. Hopefully the legacy will live on forever."

The dire economic straits that COVID-19 has thrust independent businesses into has meant that the inevitable gentrification of the city's neighbourhoods seems to be accelerating, with more local watering holes and restaurants shuttering and properties turned over to large developers that remain relatively unaffected by the pandemic.

But those who have been in the game for decades in Toronto, such as the owners of Dee's, are holding out hope that the soul of the city can still be salvaged and celebrated for years to come: "There's plenty of time to save live music, to save Sneaky Dee's, to save the neighbourhood, to save Toronto," they say.

A few online petitions to save the venue have popped up and garnered thousands of signatures in the wake of the news — some are even demanding it be declared a heritage site — while Torontonians flock to social media to share their memories of and love for Sneaks amid reports that it could be lost forever.

Ward 11 City Councillor Mike Layton and Toronto Mayor John Tory are among those who have publicly expressed their desire for the institution to stay as is.

The City has recognized that there are already some issues with the building proposal in question, including the fact that the 169-unit structure is slated to exceed the maximum height recommended in planning policy for the area.

Lead photo by

Matt Forsythe

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