Toronto bar was opened by one of the last Maple Leafs players to win a Stanley Cup
Shakey's may seem like a relatively unassuming pub in Bloor West Village, but it's got some surprising connections to Toronto legacies.
The bar was originally opened in 1992 by former Toronto Maple Leafs player Mike Walton, who was nicknamed Shakey, giving the place its name.
It's passed through several different ownerships but always retained the name, with Rob Lundy buying it about 15 years ago.
He was continuing the family legacy of his grandfather Michael Lundy, who bought the Stardust Hotel in 1949 and turned into the Drake Hotel.
He later bought the Silver Dollar and continued on to run both successfully for years.
"My grandfather passed away before he could be an influence on me running a business, however, my father would tell us stories of blues musicians who would come from Chicago back in the 50s and 60s to play at the Silver Dollar. The business was run completely different back then to now," Rob Lundy tells blogTO.
"We do have an old hockey team picture of my father, uncle (who were kids) and grandfather who was the coach. I also have an old brass or copper fire extinguisher from The Drake."
When Rob Lundy took over Shakey's, he updated the old sports bar vibe to more of a modernized look.
Before he cleaned up the space with a fresh coat of paint, there was a layer of tar residue from all the smoking in the room which left outlines around old photos on the walls.
He also now gets ingredients for the menu from local businesses like COBS Bread, Rowe Farms and a nearby grocer called Green Thumb, and sources beer from local breweries like Lost Craft/High Park Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, Indie Alehouse and Junction.
The biggest modernizations to the business were made when lockdowns hit.
"We joined many delivery platforms to help reach the families that love our food and offered discounted take-out alcohol to entice customers to shop at local businesses instead of the massive line-ups at the LCBO. Unfortunately, this was not enough to keep us afloat, we are very grateful for our landlord who did their best to help with rent," says Lundy.
"We joined in the relief program from the government for added support. Most of the breweries helped by taking back the kegs that weren't tapped. A huge shout out to Great Lakes Brewery who distilled a citrus vodka soda from the kegs that were returned to reuse instead of letting things go to waste. Their citrus vodka soda is one of our top-selling options."
It was a huge change not only for the bar but also for regulars that had considered the space a community hub since its 1992 opening.
"We started to see them come back when they felt it was safe enough to do so - outside dining, of course. But Rob made sure to stay in contact with them on a regular basis as they are part of our Shakey's family.
"At one point during the lockdowns with the strictest of measures in place, we had our regulars who were out for walks stopping by to say, 'hi,' but with more than six feet apart, and catch up while ordering takeout. It became a regular occurrence. Rob made a point to be at the restaurant every day to be there for his regulars and staff who would stop by for a tiny bit of socializing before going back to a lonely home."
During that time, they also joined in on many food drives and contests with the local BIA.
The BIA lent them Muskoka chairs for their patio for the past three years. They were allowed to use the parking space in front of the restaurant to accommodate guests, which helped the business serve the same number of people as they would have inside during non-pandemic times.
Some of the changes forced upon Shakey's due to restrictions actually helped bring the bar into the 21st century.
"Shakey's has definitely changed over the years, we were, for the most part, a boys club with a majority of our patrons being men coming in to watch sports and socialize," says Lundy.
They had tried to entice families and younger people in prior to lockdowns with live music and oyster nights, but their patio ended up being the draw they needed.
"Because of the outdoor patio, we were able to show the younger crowds and families that we are a safe space for everyone and that the men who come here are kind and not scary, grumpy at times but harmless. I distinctly remember two girls in their 20s having lunch one afternoon and telling me how they've never been here before," says Lundy.
"Part of the reason was anytime they walked by there was a group of older men smoking outside and they felt intimidated. The patio really helped us become a family destination in the neighbourhood and we are so grateful for the positive outcome from all of this."
The blows kept coming when war broke out in Ukraine, with Lundy and staff having connections to the country.
"One of our staff members is with family who didn't want to flee Ukraine but were eventually forced to," says Lundy.
"We banded together with our community and raised $5,000 to send aid and support over to Ukraine. The event was a huge success. No seats were empty. We had local performers who were Ukrainian and wanted to be part of helping the support."
Now, Shakey's continues to host more events than ever and runs lots of specials (including an oyster night).
"For such a small restaurant, an indoor capacity of around 50 people, we are an important go-to place in our neighbourhood, whether it's to catch up with a friend or come out for an event," says Lundy.
"We plan on continuing our support in the community and keep going with events, sports outings and maybe a renovation in the near future for a fresh new look, but the same great service. We will continue with our extended patio next summer, assuming CafeTO will continue again, but will be refreshing that look next year."
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