Then & Now Series

The history of a city’s nightlife reveals its pulse.

Journalist and DJ Denise Benson researches and writes Then & Now, the Toronto Nightlife History series that launched in September 2011 on the website of Toronto city weekly The Grid.

The original intent was to publish brief histories that would revisit influential, now defunct dance clubs and other social spaces operating in Toronto during the 1970s through 2000s.

Thanks to reader interest, Then & Now quickly grew to be much more than this. The social histories expanded greatly in length and depth, with the candid participation of people actively involved in each club. Also included are rare original photos, DJ mixes and video footage, making Then & Now a rich multimedia experience that conveys a vivid sense of time and place. Offering more than nostalgia, the stories also include a look at the present-day use of each club’s former location.

Then & Now is an evocative, timely exploration of both Toronto after dark and the ways in which nightclubs and social spaces tend to foreshadow gentrification trends.

In total, The Grid published 46 installments of Then & Now before it ceased publication in July of 2014.

The articles presented on this website are based on the originally published stories, with added information and, in some cases, additional photos and DJ mixes. New and expanded stories will also be developed for this website, with the Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History book to be published by Three O’Clock Press July 15, 2015.

More info about the book, and to pre-order: 


NOTE: All photos included as part of the Then & Now articles on this website were originally shared with Denise for publication on The Grid site. They have been credited according to information provided at that time. Should you have any concern about their usage here, please email us via the Contact page.