Historic pub in downtown Toronto shuts down earlier than expected

One of the city’s oldest and most storied watering holes in downtown Toronto shut down on Monday — a few days earlier than expected.

The Black Bull Tavern has been a fixture at Queen and Soho in the Queen West neighbourhood since 1833. The owners originally announced that their location would be closed on Wed. April 3, but so many patrons headed to the iconic establishment to pay homage to it that the tavern ran out of product and instead closed its doors on Mon. April 1.

“Thank you Toronto! You have shown us so much attention and love since sharing the news of our closure. We appreciate everyone who travelled near and far to grab their final pint and share their stories about The Black Bull” the owners stated in a Facebook post on Monday.

“That said, we’ve run out of product — you’ve drunk us dry! We are sadly shutting our doors tonight ahead of the April 3rd closure. We apologize for any disappointment this causes. We went out on a high note and can’t thank you all enough for your support over the years. We hope that you all continue to cherish your memories of The Black Bull.”

The tavern was once a boarding house with a rough reputation—a spot for farmers and city dwellers to relax over a pint or two. As time went on, the pub served beer to vibrant punk rockers and biker gangs. More recently, its massive patio has catered to local office workers and condo dwellers sipping sangrias during happy hour.

“Queen West is changing and sadly, what was once one of [the] biggest, sunniest patios in Toronto is cast in the shadows of high rise buildings. After the owner Bobby Taylor passed, it was time for our family to say goodbye to the corner of Queen and Soho,” the owners stated in a recent Instagram post, referring to the former NFL player who bought the tavern in 1975 and ran it until he passed of colon cancer in 2023.

“We would like to thank The Black Bull staff for their dedication and commitment over the years,” the post continues, noting that the staff have made memorabilia merchandise available for purchase, with all proceeds going directly to them.

“We are happy so many of you found your life partners at the bar. We know all of you have colourful memories to remember your time here.”

“I hope the Black Bull continues to be a bar for decades to come and future owners pay homage to the building’s history,” the post concludes.

In recent weeks, people across social media have been sharing their memories about their time at the tavern, with one Facebook user noting that he had his first date with his wife at the pub. A Redditor remembers “icy cold pints and packs of smokes consumed in mass quantities on that patio as the day floated by.”

Many X users noted that it was the best watering hole for generations of undergraduate students and community members alike:

The only highlight of the news, as some have noted, is that the building won’t likely end up being converted into a condo tower, as it was added to Toronto’s list of designated heritage properties in 1980.

“Hearing various rumours of what it will soon become. Since it was designated a historic building, it is unlikely to become ugly condos. It is always sad to hear about such a beloved place closing up,” one Facebook user noted, sharing a throwback pic of the pub’s owners. “Here is my favourite photo of Steve Earle, Andrea Legge and me at the Black Bull in 1990. I hate thinking of how our beloved Queen street is becoming more like a mall.”

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO