toronto bars nba finals

Toronto bars struggling to accommodate fans to watch NBA Finals

Many Toronto bars welcomed the influx of business that came along with the Raptors heading to the NBA finals. But with no win at Game 5 on Monday, fans’ desire to reserve a spot for a potential moment in history tonight has reached a fever pitch. 

As tough as fans are finding it to get last-minute resos for the big game, businesses are having an even harder time accommodating them.

“We have had a pretty tough time since the finals started,” says Jeremy Shorts of Escape Goat in Parkdale.

“We have a lot of fans showing up two to three hours before tip off. Getting calls for reservations for groups ranging from two to 10 and about 50 calls a day with people just asking. We haven’t been taking reservations and it’s terribly hard to say no.”

To make matters worse, their space has been essentially halved most of the time by bad weather, a patio out back equipped with TVs normally prime viewing space. 

“Having to turn away both new faces and regulars because we are full two hours before the game has been a struggle. However it’s been great for business and we always have an amazing atmosphere. 

“We have been running $5 tall can specials as well a few dollars off our burgers and wings.”

“The phone has been ringing for reservations non-stop for three days,” says Kristin McNeill, owner of Round the Horn on Roncesvalles.

“Fans have been showing up three to four hours early to get a seat. Luckily for our neighbourhood the Revue and Sorauren Park are showing the games.”

They’ve even had a mini Jurassic Park out front, people watching the game from the sidewalk outside the bar through a window that opens fully to the street. 

Even larger multi-level bars like Hemingway’s have been swamped, though it’s safe to say it’s not their first rodeo. Their solution? Being fully staffed every game night, and refusing to take reservations.

It’s first come first served, and the majority of your party has to be present to be seated. This is especially in order to be fair to regulars.

“We basically treat it like a crazy summer Friday night,” says Daimin Bodnar. He says it’s usually packed at Hemingway’s by 5:30 p.m., and at capacity by about two hours before the game starts.

While there are other options like the sidewalk and indie movie theatres, many fans are opting to just watch from the couch at home. However, it’s obvious there’s more than enough business to go around. “With all this being said it’s been an amazing time and let’s take Game 6,” says Shorts.

Lead photo by

The Right Wing


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