I never knew about the importance of having a local pub until I spent a semester abroad in London England.
I’d spent lots of time in bars and pubs by then but it was during those four months that I experienced the transformative power of returning to the same place again and again.
I have always been a fan of cozy. Of snug. Of warm rooms and cold pints and worn carpets and familiar faces. Over the years I’ve been to many such places. Sure, I’ve been to bars and clubs too, but pubs were always where I returned. The pub was always where I felt most comfortable. Something about the wooden furniture and the low ceilings and the dim lighting made it feel more like my living room than a place out in public.
When I was in university I went to a lot of pubs, no surprise there. There was the pub that theatre kids like me loved and the slightly shady English style pub with the great curry buffet on Thursdays. I went to both a fair amount, but there were two pubs that I went to even more. If attendance had been part of my university curriculum I’m sure I was in both these places enough to minor in them.
There was the bar on campus, the Brass Taps. There’s a story that it used to be called the Keg but that the restaurant chain made them change it. Even still, the name persists – no one I knew past their first semester called it the Brass Taps without being corrected. I went there almost every Monday for almost three years because my friend John hosted an open mic. I met and lost both lovers and friends there and gained confidence in myself as a performer.
As if that wasn’t enough time to spend in pubs, there was also Doogies. Oh, Doogies, I love you so. There were Sunday nights spent there with fellow student leadership nerds, Tuesdays spent listening to Mike Something play excellent covers of college rock, and the obligatory Thursday nights spent toasting the end of another week. Aside from my classes, Doogies might have been the place where I spent the most time.
Pub away from home
It wasn’t until I spent a semester abroad in London that my attachment to pubs became emotional. Before then pubs were just places my friends and I liked to hang out that happened to sell good beer and play good music.
Enter the Maple Leaf.
It was coming up to Thanksgiving and I was starting to feel a little homesick. I mentioned it to someone and they told me about this cool Canadian themed pub in Covent Garden. My first thought was ‘why would someone want to make a Canadian themed pub?’ and then I got on the tube and went directly there.
They had Moosehead and Sleeman! And poutine! And pitchers of beer! (something I’d been surprised to learn the UK knows nothing about) I loved every inch of it, from the hockey memorabilia to the mountie uniform to the stuffed bear in the middle on the dining room. I was also happy for the respite. It became my British local, a touchstone back to Canada while I was gone.
A local to call my own
When I moved to Toronto I naturally kept an eye out for a new local pub to call my own. I’ve lived in the same neighbourhood for the past eight years so I’ve had ample time to suss places near me. But it turns out I didn’t need it – as soon as I set food inside the Auld Spot I was hooked. It’s hodgepodge collection of art, low booths big enough for six, and birch branches with twinkle lights got me interested enough to sit down and then its beer and food took it from there.
I love this place so much I’ve become a broken record about it. It’s the first place I suggest to friends when we make plans and the first place I show to friends and family from out of town. I’ve been there enough that the staff now recognize me.
It feels like home.
Do you have a local? Tell me about it in the comments!