Looking back at London’s not-so-distant past…

Over the years I’ve spent being the age of majority, many local haunts became my go-to places for a little giggle water. Each place had specific rituals attached, often times very different apparel choices, and sometimes, different selections of company. All the same however, these places existing now in memory, comprised the formative bar hopping years of our lives in London… and what fantastic (or foolish) years they were.

Here at Fuse, although we love celebrating the Forest City of today, we like to take some time to look back on the great/fun/memorable things in London’s past. So, join me on this walk down memory (or lack thereof) lane for my picks on some of the most lamented bars in our great city.

1 – BlackShire Pub

Oh the Shire. You served us well. From ridiculously large deep fried pickle portions, to one of the best patios in town, to killer local and touring musicians any day of the week, BlackShire was a true institution.

Blackshire Pub London, ON
Oh so many good times were had on this patio. Photo via Facebook / @NationalMusicCampOfCanada

Having once stood at 501 Talbot Street, this building (originally the manse for the Baptist church next door), was built in 1882 and it became the BlackShire in 2010 (after many other awesome establishments). Sadly, and much to the public’s chagrin, the pub was demolished in 2015 to make way for good old condos.   

2 – The Salt Lounge

I can’t think of a place in London I loved much more than the Salt Lounge. It was massive, the live music was always great, the patio was awesome, and it was the only place at the time you could get a big old Fruili on tap. Remember the fish tank in the wall? Remember the big leather couches that swallowed you up upon sitting? Remember how the DJ was behind bars for some reason? I do, and I miss it all!

Salt Lounge London Ontario
Must admit, not sure what’s happening here but it certainly paints the picture of the lack of dull moments at The Salt. Photo via Mapio.net (photographer unnamed)

At 183 King (built originally in 1892), many a fun nights were had. That is until 2008 when we had to say goodbye. How we miss thee, Salt Lounge!

3 – Club 181

Perched directly next to the Salt Lounge, many evenings ended with some furious dancing into the wee hours at the sassiest place in town, Club 181. Said furious dancing often happened on the strange, makeshift stage that was just a disaster waiting to happen… but somehow never did!

Club 181 London ON
Sliding right down the rainbow into Club 181… a nightly routine. Photo via flickr / @hc916

Drinks were cheap and people were happy, all was well at this rainbow flag waving establishment. That is, until its closure and leveling, the building at 181 King street was demolished in 2016.

4 – The Honest Lawyer and Downtown Kathy Brown’s

Fridays were all about free pool and cheap martini’s at The Honest Lawyer, and what a time it was. Whether you were looking to have a calm hangout in this bowling alley of a bar or attempt the stairs up to good old DTKB’s next door for some retro dance beats, a blast was always had in this location.

Honest Lawyer London, ON
There she be. The silence outside certainly was never echoed within. Photo via Foursquare / @OldLadyManT

Both of these locations (at 228 Dundas Street) sadly closed after 16 years in 2014 and have been lamented by bachelorette parties ever since. The buildings are unfortunately still empty.

5 – GT’s

What a place. What. A. Place. From the very odd architectural makeup to the second level stage to the basement bar, GT’s was a London institution. It would be impossible to count how many times I ended up in this place but the memories I do have (as fuzzy as they may be) are all very happy ones. GT’s was a place where all manners of people, straddling all different scenes, called home and for that reason, I can say for certain I’m not the only one who misses it.

GT's London ON
Since it was before the days of smartphones and photos of everything, it’s pretty hard to find photos of the nightly parties at GTs. This is the best I could do! The Scrotes rocking hard on stage in their video “Back In The Day Pt. 1.” Screenshot via Facebook / @TheScrotes

Since closing its doors in 2008, this location has seen many different identities. The New Yorker, the Bucking Bull, and Burlesque Nightclub… none of which, sadly, lasted very long. Today, there are bright things on the horizon at Richmond and York. Youth Opportunities Unlimited are embarking on a massive renovation and establishment of affordable housing units, so the once thriving GT’s will have a brand new purpose!

6 – Alex P. Keaton

The Alex. We salute you. What a wonderful place this was with the best patio in town and enough decorative carpeting to make your grandma jealous. This was the coolest place to be during its prime, boasting live music, (what then seemed like snooty) unusual beers on tap, and a nightly collection of London’s most stylish indie scene royalty just living that vie bohème. You came for the Strongbow on ice, you stayed for the hipster cred.    

Alex P. Keaton London ON
The Alex in its later incarnation, The Coates of Arms. Blast this 2008 lack of photography! Photo via Facebook / @CoatesOfArms

But the wind of change blew right down Albert Street in 2008 and we watched as the Alex P. Keaton doused the lights, became the Coates of Arms, then the Whisky House, and now Los Lobos. Although still lovely, nothing is quite the same as the OG Alex.

7 – APK Live

With the closure of Alex P. Keaton, London’s fashionable frump level went from off the charts to non-existent… that is until APK Live rose from the ashes. However, this time London’s hipsterati traded in geriatric chic for the gold lamé regalia of American Apparel couture. Hipster jabs aside, APK Live became a cultural hub for local music, art, and theatre. Sights and sounds of creativity reverberated through this beautifully unique, groin-vaulted underground in a way that London had never seen. It was a gastronomic paradise, a musician’s second home, and a true staple within London’s arts and culture scene.

Alex P. Keaton London ON
Hello from the APK Live patio and 2012 Facebook photo album. Photo by Jasmin Fisher

Though, come 2012, something unthinkable was afoot at 340 Wellington Street. APK Live had to close its doors due to structural issues making the space unsound. A little piece of London died with APK Live but the memories, oh so many of them, we’ll always have.

8 – Jim Bob Ray’s

THERE I SAID IT. Yes, Jim Bob’s. This place was a nightlife staple for years for students and people on the prowl. For me, like many others, Jim Bob’s marked the first foray into “clubscene” culture at 19. Yes, its reputation was never exactly the best but memories of drinking vodka crans while dancing to Global Deejays’ “The Sounds of San Francisco,” I look back on fondly.

Jim Bob's London ON
How many people do you think fell down those stairs? Many, I’m quite sure. Photo via OntarioBev.net 

In 2015, the owner announced new plans for 585 Richmond Street, trading in the mixed drinks for craft brews. Yes, we love our Toboggan Brewing Co., but Jim Bob’s, the 20-year-old in many of us still finds a way to miss you.    

This has certainly been a trip down memory lane, remembering all the versions of myself and others as defined by the places we chose to frequent. It will be a different list for everyone but I do believe, that each of these places hold some form of significance in the collective London memory.

This list is by no means exhaustive so stay tuned for Gerard’s picks, part two for more reminiscent fun! Which London bar do you miss the most? 

Feature photo via Facebook / @CoatesOfArms

9 COMMENTS

  1. GT’s !! definitely a fav! Loved it and have many great memories! The Black Shire-yes! not so easy to find bars/pubs with great live music any day of the week… C’Mon London, Get some live music pubs going! PLEASE !!!!

  2. The honest lawyer will not be missed. Speaking as someone who worked in the kitchen it was a piss hole. Disgusting sanitary conditions in the kitchen and in the walk in downtown. Paired with a dilapidated 2nd and 3rd floor (literally holes in the floor). It’s far better this place is closed for good.

  3. Way to go Nicki! This article has prompted lots of discussion on the r/londonontario subreddit! Lots of great suggestions for the next installation of this series 🙂 Enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Thanks for writing!

  4. I would put Kiplings, The Bavarian,The Barn, Notes, Mingles, Talbot Inn, The Garage, ….wow just realized I could keep going on and on and they would be above most of these.

    • I’ll draw your attention to, first the title of the article and the “part one” in it. Second, the bottom of the article that reads “This list is by no means exhaustive so stay tuned for Gerard’s picks, part two for more reminiscent fun!”
      We all have different experiences!

    • I’ll draw your attention to, first the title of the article and the “part one” in it. Second, the bottom of the article that reads “This list is by no means exhaustive so stay tuned for Gerard’s picks, part two for more reminiscent fun!”
      That’s how!

  5. The Shot was our favourite. All of these clubs have one thing in common. No matter what temperature it was outside the stupid girls in halter/tank tops with NO coats would stand outside for hours waiting to get in.

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