A Requiem for The Elephant and Castle

The last English pub on Whyte Avenue -- the Elephant and Castle -- is closing its doors.

There are lots of people to blame for this: Rachel Arab's high alcohol taxes combined with her destruction of the province, Mayor Coward for his obnoxiously high property tax hikes, and...well, management of the E&C over the past decade.

Back in the 90s the E&C was a hugely popular place to go: they had great beer, was a great place to watch the game, and a killer plate of nachos.

So what sank the Elephant and Castle into the swamp? Change.

I mentioned that E&C was a great place to watch a game. I didn't say, notice, that it is a great place to watch a game. Why isn't it anymore? Change.

Specifically, the change in what a great TV to watch a game on was. It really wasn't that long ago that watching TV in a bar was done on CRT monitors broadcast in standard definition.

As other bars in the area like Hudson and The Pint started looking more like the bottom of the picture (not with nearly as big a TV, mind you, but the concept was the same), Elephant and Castle put a couple HD TVs behind the bar, and eventually did replace the smaller TVs on the ground floor. That giant 4' wide TV upstairs that I don't even think works anymore has been there for two decades, though, and in the same way it made watching a hockey game at E&C great in 1999 makes it horrible in 2015. So in that regard, E&C fell behind.

They fell behind on the sexy waitress measure as well, and before you flood my comments with a rash of "sexist pig" nonsense please be aware of two key points.

  1. I've actually dated a girl who was an Elephant and Castle waitress
  2. Whether it offends your liberal sensitivities or not, sexy girls still sell more beer. "Breastaurants" are big business in the U.S. (the Daily Mail, bless their soul, has more pictures).
However you may wish it not to be so, the 18-35 demographic that makes up the bar crowd wasn't lured in by the short stocky pseudo-goth girls that make up the majority of E&C waitress staff. There were other things here and there that contributed to the downfall, of course. For the longest time I couldn't believe that E&C's patio, which by far is my favourite one in the city, was never open on nice spring days (they waited until mid-June) and was shut down by the second weekend in September. This year they introduced one of those "on the street" patios, and on Dominion Day were literally using it to store furniture. And those infamous nachos? Yeah, you ain't gonna be seeing those again anymore. They did a decent job of bringing in Brit-pub inspired menu items, but it just didn't seem to be a reason to go. The prices only recently have become reasonable: and they didn't do this by lowering their prices, but instead waiting until everybody else is charging the same overpricing. The bar ended up just becoming a dank place to watch European soccer with ex-pat Brits, which can only be fun for so long. I usually would suggest Elephant and Castle when friends wanted to go on Whyte, but was almost always overruled. You'd think there would be a quality market for a nice British style pub, but perhaps not (after all, British pubs are closing down left right and centre in Britain).

Whyte Avenue is having a rough time. The ridiculous bar-size-cap brought in by Faggot Phair was pretty much the gong that started this gong show. The number of bars and bar patrons have been going steadily downwards. Suite 69 (the main victim of the bar cap) is closed. The revolving door of bars that have gone into the old Urban Lounge have all failed and now the site is a deserted husk. The revolving door of bars that have gone into the old Monkey Island (and all failing to realize only black people ever wanted to go there) have all failed and now the site is a deserted husk. The revolving door of bars that have gone into the old Savoy Lounge have all failed and now the site is a deserted husk (about to become a yoga studio). The Tavern is up for sale and the owners are willing to lose money just to unload the property. The strip has degenerated into a bunch of shitty spots with inexplainably constant lineups (The Roxy, The Buckingham, Squires, Billiard's Club), Mexican-themed bistro-pubs (Julio's, El Cortez), soulless sports bars (The Pint, Hudsons, Boston Pizza), hipster breeding grounds (MKT, Black Dog) dance clubs that are either packed or deserted (Twist, Funky Buddha), and the aging specialty music specialty spots (Cook County, Filthy McNasty's, Blues on Whyte).

When the Oilers make a Cup run again, I'm not sure the "Blue Kilometre" will even be worth writing about. Not that we would have wanted to watch the games at Elephant and Castle anyways.