Toronto’s Monarch Tavern was once frequented by organized crime. Today, it’s home to nothing more sinister than a poetry reading
The Monarch Tavern, hidden on a residential street in Toronto’s Little Italy, is one of the oldest licensed establishments in the city.
Evan Georgiades and Michael Dorbyk bought the Monarch five years ago, and today the venue regularly hosts film events, live music, and book and magazine launches. “I always wanted there to be a place where people from different [artistic] disciplines could find a common ground,” Georgiades says.
1. The yellow brick building was originally a hotel when it opened in 1927. Back then, Georgiades explains, “You couldn’t sell liquor if you didn’t have rooms.” When he and Dorbyk bought the bar, Georgiades says it had seen better days: “People used to come here – they didn’t want anyone to know they were here. I heard members of organized crime used to meet with the police here, have their sit-downs and hash things out.”
The Monarch’s two floors have had different uses over its storied history, but the downstairs bar is where the current owners hold events and private parties.
2. A collision of past and present adds to the Monarch Tavern’s intimate and informal setting. Mounted behind the newly installed stage is a vintage black-and-white photo of Monarch patrons celebrating the end of the Second World War.
Present-day regulars drink local craft brews and cocktails while seated at cabaret-style tables clustered on the venue’s original terrazzo floor, giving the room a feel that ECW Press publicist Jenna Illies calls “unpretentious and cozy.”
3. The space also features a multimedia system, complete with stage lights, soundboard, and a projector.
Author Lindsay Gibb launched her book National Treasure: Nicolas Cage (ECW) at the Monarch this October. “Multimedia was really important since, to really appreciate Nicolas Cage, you have to see him,” Gibb says.
Georgiades is happy these types of events find their way to the bar, and hopes to host more in the future. “We’d like to welcome more writers, especially independents,” he says. “We’re very artist friendly.”