Flyer for The Living Room’s “Holiday House” presented by Pat & Mario. Courtesy of Pat Boogie.
Article originally published May 10, 2012 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
This late-’90s venture by the party-starting Sbrocchi and Assoon brothers became the favourite Sunday night spot for a mature crowd of dedicated house heads. It was so beloved, some called it the Toronto house scene’s version of Cheers.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: The Living Room, 330 Adelaide St. W.
Years in operation: 1997-2002
History: Though it may be difficult to imagine, just 15 years ago, Toronto’s Entertainment District still had some semblance of cool. It hadn’t yet become overrun with copycat venues, fall-over-drunk partiers, and frustrated residents, while the mad condo-fication we see today hadn’t fully taken hold. There remained a whiff of possibility in the area for those who wanted to open music-minded social spots.
Into this epicentre returned the brothers Assoon. In 1980—when the area was decidedly non-residential and still touted as the Garment District—Albert, Tony, Michael and David Assoon (and partners) opened Twilight Zone on Richmond near Simcoe. The deeply influential after-hours dance club ran until 1989.
Eight years later, Albert and Michael partnered with Anthony Formusa and brothers Tony and Johnny Sbrocchi to open a vastly different venture in a two-storey, Art Deco-style warehouse building near the corner of Peter and Adelaide. It had been home to the Sbrocchis’ fine-dining restaurant Ola, but that hadn’t taken off.
Tazmanian Ballroom advertisement, courtesy of Karen Young.
Article originally published March 30, 2012 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
A look back at the ‘80s east-end haunt that imported U.K. rave culture to Toronto, let dancers openly shag on the third floor, and gave a young Gerard Butler his first gig as a doorman.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Tazmanian Ballroom, 99-101 Jarvis
Years in operation: 1987-1990
History: Just as true characters have frequented Toronto’s most memorable nightclubs, they’ve owned them as well. Few have been as influential, audacious, or fanciful as nightlife impresario and restaurateur Johnny Katsuras. Since the late 1970s, the man better known as Johnny K has owned and operated a wide variety of thematic hot spots—often with wife, business partner, and chef Laura Prentice—in areas just off the beaten path, with a lean towards the city’s east end.
In the second half of 1987, Katsuras followed on the success of his establishments—including his long-running, self-titled resto and surprisingly successful Beaches dance bar Krush—by turning attention to Jarvis and Richmond. Here, in an area filled with historic, often underused commercial buildings, Johnny K purchased a three-floor heritage property built in 1898, once known as MacFarlane’s Hotel. It had previously operated as The Jarvis House and then gay bar Club 101 by the Chrysalis Group, also owners of Yorkville mega-club The Copa.
Co-founders Amy Katz (middle left) and Kate Cassidy (middle right), with 52 inc. staffer/collaborators Elliot George and Wudasie Efrem on the bar’s final day. Photo courtesy of Kate Cassidy.
Article originally published January 4, 2012 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
In the latest instalment of her nightlife-history series, Denise Benson takes us back to College Street in the mid-90s, when a female-friendly hotbed for arts and culture opened up just as Little Italy was beginning to explode.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: 52 inc., 394 College Street
Years in operation: 1995 — 2000
History: On August 2nd 1995, two 23-year-old friends—Kate Cassidy and Amy Katz—opened a community-minded café, bar and boutique just one block away from their shared rental apartment at College and Borden. 52 inc., named as a nod to women forming fifty-two percent of the global population, was a complementary addition to a neighbourhood filled with diverse independent businesses.
Photo of DFC dance crew at Movement by Rob Ben (courtesy of John Kong).
Article originally published September 21, 2011 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com). This piece marked the debut of Then & Now, originally envisioned as a series of brief articles. Given that Then & Now articles grew in length and number of participants, Roxy Blu will be revisited in far more detail for the T&N book.
Introducing Then & Now, a new feature by Denise Benson where she takes a look at what’s become of Toronto’s legendary, but now defunct, dance clubs. In this inaugural edition, she revisits the much-missed Roxy Blu in advance of Friday’s reunion party at Revival.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Roxy Blu
Location: 12 Brant
Years in operation: 1998-2005
Why it was important: From the spring of 1998—when owner Amar Singh opened Roxy Blu in a King West area not then known for clubs—this 10,000 square-foot venue of four rooms (Roxy upstairs, Foundation a.k.a. Surface downstairs) grew to become one of Toronto’s most beloved venues for house, dancefloor jazz, downtempo, hip-hop and emerging/underground electronic and dance music. Roxy’s size, friendly staff, comfortable décor and wooden dancefloors attracted innovative DJs and promoters who, in turn, drew audiences equally passionate about music and dancing. Parties and promoters—including Movement, Phatblackpussycat, Solid Garage, milk. and Hot Stepper’s Garage 416 and Bump N’ Hustle—flourished at Roxy, collectively creating a whole much larger than its parts.