Friday, February 7, 2014

The History of The Rondun Hotel: Part Two

Ah... the romantic streetcar. And the Rondun Hotel on the right, after it was sold.

To say that The Rondun was successful was an understatement. It served the largest gallonage of beer in Ontario and maybe Canada. It was so successful that when someone once sneered that Charles was the “Beer Baron”, he took it personally. The Rondun served a lower income area and was best known by the new Canadians that arrived in great waves after WWII; those who settled in an area called the Junction, literally on the wrong side of the tracks. The tracks being trains filled with animals brought to the city for slaughter and processing. That is why some parts of Toronto are called HogTown, and the The Big Smoke. No one has ever asked why it had 12 hotel rooms that were never filled, but I will tell you anyway: It was to qualify for a certain type of liquor hotel/ dining room licence, as opposed to a bar licence. A bar can get shut down if it has underage people in it, but a dining room and hotel can not. Once there was a severe snowstorm and 5 truckers holed up at the hotel for 2 days. They had a good time, but Charles had to send one of the waitresses out to buy linen for the beds because he didn’t actually have any. This also meant the Rondun had to serve food. And it did. You can not serve alcohol before noon but The Rondun opened at 10am to accommodate those who were getting off shift and wanted a large breakfast before they went home. There was really nothing else in the area, so the Rondun filled the void.

Legend has it that Charles turned on the beer taps at 5pm and never turned them off until 1am when the bar closed. The waitresses just passed glass after glass under the taps, filling each to the line drawn on the glass as required by the province, never spilling a drop. My mother says that there was room for 700 people in the main drinking hall and another 300 in the dining room, roughly a 1,000 people in total and the place was always packed. This is in the days before credit cards or debit and all transactions were done with cash. Luckily there was a bank across the street and during daylight hours they would pick up large sacks of cash and keep it overnight in the vault until it could be counted the next day. Occasionally a fight would break out, or someone would try and run out or cheat on a tab. At that point, Charles would shut the taps, pull down the steel cage that covered the cash register during the night (which was heavy enough to break a man’s hand) and flip up a shot gun that was hung under the bar leaving a dent in the think mahogany surface of the bar itself. The bar would clear pretty quick and things would go back to normal. There were also raids on the beer hall looking for underage drinking. Men from Europe were in the habit of ordering their sons a beer after a hard day’s work and Charles wasn’t in the habit of asking for ID. Actually, Charles didn’t believe in carrying ID at all, he found it very un-Canadian since he knew everyone and everyone knew him, but more on that later.

Charles and his brothers were all part owners, but Charles was the General Manager and the only one who showed up to work everyday. The other two brothers had established the JEDennie paper company and sold stationary. That building stood off to the side of where City Hall and the ice rink stands today. Apparently Eddy and Lorne invented the square bottom paper bag but either they didn’t patent it or it’s a myth, because I would be rich if that were true. The thing about The Rondun, and Toronto in general, is that it ran like a small town. Everyone knew everyone else and there were some characters. After decades in business, stories would accumulate. There was the alcoholic beer salesman who got sober and was discovered wandering from table to table through The Rondun handing out AA cards and preaching religion. There was the thief who tried to take cash out of the till only to have heavy steel cage fall on the back of his neck. He didn’t die, though. There was the small European skirmish that called all its expatriates to arms in the motherland. The night before this certain ethnic demographic was due to leave, The Rondun rang with song and almost literally ran out of kegs of beer, it was filled to capacity with men saying their final goodbyes. In the morning, not a single soul got on the ship. Charles laughed about that.


  1. Great story. I remember the Rondun (Roncesvalles & Dundas). Do you have any photos of it?


Thank you for your comment. New posts published every Friday. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
No, I will not be your Facebook friend!