North Shore haunt Toby’s Social Pub will be calling last orders for the final time this month, with its doors set to close June 30.
The pub, located on 1378 Main Street, has been a favourite among locals looking to shoot some pool, kick back with a cold one and revel in live music for the last ten years, and its closure is a loss for punters and pub owner alike.
“It is sad to say goodbye after a decade of serving the North Vancouver community,” said owner Rola Priatel.
Priatel, whose hospitality history spans the ownership of the now closed Silvertone Tavern on Commercial Drive and the North Shore’s Lynnwood Inn, said she will not be renewing the lease as she could not reach a lease agreement with the owners of the Harbourview Centre.
The closure of Toby’s marks the loss of another beloved watering hole for locals, who, in the past year alone, have had to grapple with the departure of long-standing British style pub Cheshire Cheese and Lynn Valley stalwart the Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub, which will serve its final pint in November.
“Toby’s just had that strong, community feel, which, unfortunately, is something I feel is slowly depleting here on the North Shore,” said Courtney Weeks, who has been going to Toby’s at least once a week ever since he moved to North Vancouver from his home of Los Angeles, five years ago.
“There is a place for the Cactus Club’s and the Earl’s and establishments like that, but there is a lot that can be said about the local pub," he said. "With Toby’s, the staff are great, the food is comforting, and it’s nice to see local people, folks who have been going there far longer than I have, who have grown up here on the North Shore."
Unlike the cookie cutter approach embodied by much of North Vancouver’s growing hospitality scene, said Weeks, local pubs offer unique character and atmosphere, an approachability that is hard to find anywhere else and, above all, good times for patrons.
For those in search of prime entertainment, Toby’s had been there to satiate, especially since the pandemic, when it rebranded from Toby’s Pub to Toby’s Social Pub to accommodate and acknowledge the ravenous appetite for social activity.
Amenities like a pool table and dart board were added, and weekly trivia nights, live music and open mic nights were introduced. The additions, said Priatel, went down so well with locals that Saturday nights were “packed with lineups,” so large they had to introduce an entry fee to contain the crowds.
For Jason Lane Amott, who launched the Friday open mic nights with sister Chantal Sayers in 2022, the closure means not simply bidding adieu to a beloved watering hole, but a bonafide events venue, too.
“The loss of this music venue is particularly poignant, as the number of spaces available for performances and networking in the Lower Mainland continues to dwindle,” he said.
“The open mic nights were not only a hit among musicians who performed each week, but they also attracted a large number of people who returned to the pub just to listen to the diverse talent.”
There are many talented musicians in Vancouver that “need this outlet,” said Amott, with the Toby’s stage for years being the place where budding performers and musicians cut their teeth.
“There is a great loss felt among the music community, these Friday evenings have held a special significance, eagerly anticipated by many as a cherished opportunity to gather, connect, and network with fellow musicians,” he said.
Musician Colin Jackson has been contributing to the open mic night for the better part of two years. He said he hopes Toby’s will “move on, rather than move out,” and the live venue space will rise, Phoenix-like, at another location, rather than “dying in muted surrender.”
As for now, the pub’s future remains uncertain, as does the soon-to-be-empty space that sits at 1378 Main Street.
Priatel said she is keeping the pub’s licence, and so “one never knows,” but for now the pub will close as planned June 30, with the only flickers of Toby’s remaining in the form of its liquor stores, on both Commercial Drive and the North Shore’s Barrow Street, which hold events and regular tastings.
“We would like to sincerely thank the North Vancouver community and our loyal patrons and guests for their support over the last 10 years. We are looking forward to the future,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.