DJ Gio Cristiano (far right) beside Gypsy co-owner Mike Borg and friends. Photo courtesy of Cristiano.
Article originally published April 18, 2013 by The Grid online (thegridto.com).
Denise Benson revisits this influential Queen West resto-lounge that brought together bohos, bankers, artists and trendsetters for a menu that included good eats, DJed beats, a smorgasbord of live music, and a diverse cast of characters.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Gypsy Co-op, 817 Queen West
Years in operation: 1995–2006
History: Though perhaps now difficult to imagine, in mid-1990s Toronto, it was still unusual for bar and restaurant owners to open sizable spots on Queen Street west of Bathurst. Trinity Bellwoods Park felt far-off, while Parkdale was not the trendy destination point it is today.
Still, evening social life on Queen was slowly moving westward. Boom Boom Room had run successfully for five years, Sanctuary had brought the goths to Queen and Palmerston, Squirly’s offered cheap nosh ‘til late, and Terroni opened its original location at 720 Queen West in 1992.
A pioneering address was 817 Queen Street West, near Claremont. In the late ‘80s, Marcus and Michael O’Hara opened the über-cool Squeeze Club there. The Squeeze was a combo restaurant, bar, art space, and billiards hall that soared at first, and struggled later. When the business went up for sale, the brothers Borg scored the location.
Marcus O’Hara’s Squeeze Club pre-dated Gypsy at 817 Queen West. Photo courtesy Vintage Toronto.
Marilyn Manson outside of Catch 22, circa mid-1990s. Photo courtesy of Andy Gfy.
Article originally published by The Grid online (The GridTO.com) on May 24, 2012.
In the early ‘90s, alternative rock was exploding overground, with the rave scene coming up right behind it. This beloved Adelaide Street club bridged these two movements together in a legitimate, licensed space.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Catch 22 Niteclub, 379 Adelaide W.
Years in operation: 1989-1997
History: While a five-year-lifespan tends to be a decent run for nightclubs in this city, some strike a nerve and manage to go it longer, thanks to an ever-evolving community of supporters. Catch 22 was such a venue.
Located on Adelaide near the corner of Spadina, Catch was slightly off the beaten path as it lay on the edges of the then-developing club district and was a few minutes’ walk south from Queen West. It was opened in November of 1989 by a group of friends—with Pat Violo, Lex van Erem, and Gio Cristiano at the core—in a former storage space on the building’s lowest level.
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.
Klub Max dancefloor circa 1994. Photo by Steven Lungley. All rights reserved.
Article originally published January 19, 2012 by The Grid online (TheGridTO.com).
Denise Benson revisits the three-storey super-club that was at the epicentre of Toronto’s early ‘90s Entertainment District explosion.
BY: DENISE BENSON
Club: Klub Max, 52 Peter (now 56 Blue Jays Way)
Years in operation: 1990-1994
History: This is a tale of a changing Toronto. It tells the story of an historic area in transition, mere years before it came to serve as the meeting point for the touristy and the trendy. Also at its centre is a man who became one of this city’s most successful nightlife entrepreneurs, as well as a number of our most recognized DJs.
52 Peter Street was once the George Crookshank House. Built in the 1830s, it’s one of the street’s oldest buildings and was designated an historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act. But its beautiful brick frontage would be obscured by modern smoked glass and signage when Nick Di Donato and his Liberty Entertainment Group renovated it extensively at the end of the 1980s to open, at first, a single-level P.M. Toronto sports bar and restaurant.
In 1990, Di Donato and colleague Angelo Belluz developed the property into the area’s first full-on dance club—a three-floor funhouse named Klub Max. It took vision—and nerve—to open a large club there at the time.