By John Gemmell
Depending on how well your Thursday evening pre-drinking drinking session went, you may or may not remember swaggering on the bar – or spending time there at all. But no matter which direction you wander off Ryerson’s campus, in Canada’s most expensive city, you’re sure to find a welcome treat: cheap(er) booze.
The proprietors of two watering holes adjacent to Ryerson spent the summer months renovating their establishments to exceed the expectations of easily distracted students who, on any Thursday night, could choose to mindlessly throw money on the bar of about 300 other boozy joints in downtown Toronto.
But lately, Mick E. Fynn’s has revived the Ryerson pub crawl, and two other neighbourhood pubs are looking to put the moves on its clientele.
Reilly’s bar and restaurant at 340 Yonge St., across from Sam the Record Man, has installed a $30,000 sound system on its third floor, a space reserved for private parties organized through Revolution Entertainment Group. Every Thursday, it hosts the theatre school’s pub night.
This year the bar added 25 cents to the price of bottled beverages, which now cost $3.25. They are still about $2 cheaper than a Corona from a downtown nightclub. Pool is free at Reilly’s and the staff pumps Top 40 hits over an elevated dance floor.
Brent Mclaughlin, a second-year theatre tech student, goes to Reilly’s every week because of the free pool tables and friendly atmosphere.
“It’s where everyone in my program goes on Thursday,” says Mclaughlin. “You can’t find that kind of atmosphere anywhere else, the new sound system is fantastic. And it’s not too crowded.”
The Fuel Station at Jarvis and Gerrard Streets used to be Ryerson’s hot spot, but lately it has become devoid of students. Over the past two years, students have abandoned the Fuel Station’s dingy dance floor for slicker clubs and bars, even though the “Fueller” hosts ‘Ryerson’s official $7.50 fucked up Thursday’ pub night.’
“Kids aren’t drinking as much as they used to four or five years ago,” says Fuel Station server Fast Eddie as he scurries off to greet a table of new guests.
Eddie and Fuel Station owner Steve Vlahos think the arrival of 18-year-olds on campus in two years – when Grade 13 is abolished – will have a negative impact on all pubs around Ryerson since there will be an entire year of students too young to get into bars.
Vlahos thinks his pub’s attendance has dropped because word-of-mouth is no longer spreading to first-year students. “I’m not going to give up,” he says, lighting a pipe behind his small but plentiful bar.
James Watt is one first-year student who didn’t hear about the Fuel Station through friends. He came to study applied geography (from Cobourg, Ont.), where he says the 19 to 25 year olds only gather at one bar.
He enjoys the variety of places Toronto offers and would only go into The Fuel Station, which he calls a “dingy hole,” if he drank too much before leaving his flat and couldn’t make it further than the six houses that stand between him and the bar.
Watt’s favourite Thursday night hang out is Mick E. Fynn’s. Its new location on Carlton Street is a sophisticated transformation from its old location at the scummy corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets.
The new Mick E. Fynn’s opened across from Maple Leaf Gardens in June and has quickly become the trendy venue for spotting inebriated classmates and professors.
“We’re pretty busy every day of the week, especially now that we’re open on Sundays,” says manager Kevin Hayes, with sweat dripping off his forehead as he takes a breather from pouring pints behind the bar.
“The attitude has changed [since the move]. People are more active because there’s lots of space to walk around.”
Mick E. Fynn’s is packed with Neil-Wycik residents on Wednesdays, a variety of Ryerson students and passersby on Thursdays, and sports fans enjoying satellite TV on Saturdays.
The new bar has an abundance of seating and three pool tables. Unlike Reilly’s and The Fuel Station, Hayes says his bar is staying away from a dance floor and live music for now. That’s because he wants to keep a good rapport with the condo residents who live directly above the bar.
But so far, Ryan Marier, a third-year mechanical engineering student, loves having Mick E. Fynn’s on the ground floor of his building. He used to frequent its old location and is fond of the move. “Everything’s shiny and new,” he says.
“Everybody comes to Fynn’s on Thursday because it’s better than The Fuel Station and Oakham [House] smells,” Marier says. “It’s the better of three evils.”