the boat toronto

Toronto bar famous for its live music and dance parties shuts down

A Toronto bar that first opened its doors in 1976 and was the setting for lots of music videos is now closing permanently.

The Boat in Kensington Market was known for its kitschy portholes, theme parties and events of all stripes from rock shows by big name acts to amateur open mic nights and birthday parties.

"We did reopen from end of August 2020 to September 2020 and hosted a handful of shows and events, but ultimately, our space and what we are known for...large dance parties, large live music shows et cetera for over 100 people, really was not compatible with the COVID environment," says owner Jimmy Lam.

"Our landlord has been amazing though and we are beyond sad to leave. For the future, we would love to be able to start a new venue. But would have to see if it's in store for us."

When it first opened, the location was initially a Portuguese seafood restaurant and then became a Cantonese karaoke bar before its transformation in the mid-2000s into a popular music venue.

"Our last official day was actually Sept. 30, 2020, end of lease. We were hoping to one day be able to go back again but decided to let it go permanently this week as there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic right now."

Lots of people have been posting to social media about the loss, and The Boat has been sharing many of the shout-outs to their Instagram story.

"I've been putting on events and DJing at @theboatkensington almost every weekend for 12 years. I cut my teeth as a promoter and event coordinator here. I've seen so many amazing bands play here. I grew relationships and friendships here that will last a lifetime," wrote local DJ Tyler Johnston in a passionate farewell post on Instagram.

"I don't know what to say. This one hits really close to home for me. This was my home away from home. And like so many of my city's venues and bars it's now gone. Our city is dying and it makes me extremely sad. I'm heartbroken. I hope one day we can dance with each other again."

Sadly Johnston is far from the only performer publicly mourning the loss of the venue, and The Boat is far from the only business that has had to close during the pandemic in the hard-hit neighbourhood of Kensington.

Recently a popular Muay Thai studio and dance venue closed, as well as a Caribbean restaurant.

Lead photo by

The Boat


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