|Toronto Star, October 26, 1948.|
During the Concord’s early days, food was pushed as much as booze or music. An early ad promised “epicurean delights from the continent prepared under the direction of Chef ‘Van’” to be devoured while pianist Leo Spellman tickled the ivories. The Concord offered four rooms for its patrons, with names that ranged from swanky (Burgundy Room) to vaguely sexy sounding (Frolic Room).
|Toronto Star, January 8, 1962.|
|Globe and Mail, February 25, 1963.|
With the turn to rock came various eyebrow-raising attractions. While the early 1960s saw plenty of people doing the Twist, the middle part of the decade brought in go-go dancers. Yellow-boot clad performers brought, according to the Globe and Mail’s Martin Knelman, “all the richness of gymnasium culture to modern interpretive dancing,” especially if they performed while suspended from the ceiling. By 1969, the Star reported that the Concord “goes in for raunchy toplessness,” foreshadowing the venue’s final incarnation as a strip joint.
|Toronto Star, October 3, 1982. Click on image for larger version.|
But it wasn’t to be. During its last years, the Concord morphed into a strip joint which attracted touring performers like Margaret Smith, a.k.a. Black Magic, who danced while attired in black leather and whips. What had once been a meeting place for locals and businessmen became a regular stop for 14 Division officers who stopped brawls between bikers in the parking lot, checked in on neighbourhood toughs, and even nabbed a drunk driver or two. Drug dealing and prostitution were not unknown.
|Globe and Mail, October 8, 1983. Click on image for larger version.|
The star-spangled sign, once described as “pseudo-Mirvish Modern,” was removed in 1983 and replaced by a new name: the Blarney Stone. The Irish pub drew some neighbourhood ire when servers who had worked at the Concord for over 20 years were not retained. The new owners felt customers would be better served by bartenders and waitresses of Irish descent, rather than by the previous Italian and Portuguese servers. “I’d be the first person to say this place needed a change,” fired bartender Bruce Falagario told the Globe and Mail. “Our jobs were never that easy, dealing with the kind of people who come to see the strippers. We were looking forward to new people, but we never realized just how much of a change they wanted.” The former employees picketed the new bar, with assistance from city councillor Joe Pantalone and school board trustee (and future MPP) Rosario Marchese.
After the Blarney Stone pumped its last pint around 1989, the space was taken over by its current tenant, Long & McQuade Musical Instruments.
Additional material from Before the Gold Rush by Nicholas Jennings (Toronto: Penguin, 1997), The Hawk: The Story of Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks by Ian Wallis (Kingston: Quarry Press, 1996), the November 12, 1948, December 21, 1966, November 9, 1968, February 8, 1978, October 8, 1983 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the January 3, 1969 and October 3, 1982 editions of the Toronto Star.