The Comfort Zone is back – this time in Parkdale.
Operating at the corner of College and Spadina since 1996, the Silver Dollar Room’s infamous basement after-hours club is now situated at 1369 Queen West, a space attached to furniture showroom and household goods store FullWorth.
The venue closed in 2017 after Fitzrovia Real Estate acquired the Silver Dollar and the adjacent Hotel Waverly from original developers the Wynn Group. The club briefly moved to 327 King West, but eventually returned to the Spadina space to go down with the ship.
In an email correspondence, business owner Dave Yarmus (who also owned the old Silver Dollar and Comfort Zone) tells NOW the new space is bigger and better than the old Zone, but partiers can expect the Zone they remember.
“We still have all our connections from our many years as the Comfort Zone and Silver Dollar,” he says.
That includes promoter Dan Burke, who was instrumental in making the Silver Dollar an underground music destination in the years leading up to its demolition. The long-time Silver Dollar booker has also been in contact with Fitzrovia about restoring the Dollar at its original address – a condition of the Dollar’s heritage designation requires the developers to revive the Silver Dollar upon reconstruction.
The new Comfort Zone was christened in 2020 with a marathon 12-hour New Year’s Day party with many of the venue’s longtime regular DJs. Since then, Yarmus and his team have been running weekend parties steadily in the early hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and it’s a real blast from the recent past.
Descending a tall blue stairwell recalling the Spadina location’s entrance, a hallway spits you out right onto the dance floor – a long, cavernous stretch extending from the width of the stage, bracketed by rows of couches. On the right side, there’s a space where partiers can dance under black lights, while the left has a longer dance floor sparsely lit with LED strips. Tucked around a corner, there’s a bar stocked with energy drinks and water bottles, also providing a quieter space to dance. Like the old Comfort Zone, this club doesn’t sell alcohol – it typically only opens at 2 am, after last call has passed.
Having witnessed the Zone shift from a haven for old-school electro and progressive house to a sanctuary for tech-house, Tracy Bonnor Ntiforo — well known to Zoners by her DJ alias Ticky Ty — says the resemblance is uncanny.
“It feels like Zone from another dimension,” Ntiforo exclaims over the phone before bouncing over to the new location for an early Sunday morning set. “When you’re dancing in certain spots, if you kind of half-close your eyes a little bit, you almost feel like you’re back at old Zone. Even the speaker stacks are in the same place and the bar is on the same side.’”
Locals have been wondering about the spot since a liquor licence application with the Silver Dollar Room’s name on it appeared on a window at 1371 Queen West back in November, and now a vinyl decal bearing a representation of the Silver Dollar’s classic sign quietly adorns one of the glass doors at the entrance.
The Silver Dollar and Comfort Zone signs adorning the doors at 1369 Queen West
“The Silver Dollar is definitely part of the game plan for the new space,” Yarmus confirms, forwarding some photos of a slick, all-black-everything bar area with walls lined with couches and framed photos depicting the historic blues-turned-rock-venue’s history. (With the original set to be rebuilt within the real estate space on Spadina, that means the city may eventually have two competing Silver Dollar Rooms.)
There’s no sign of a stage yet in the Parkdale venue, but Burke sees potential.
“It’s a pretty big room that resembles the Comfort Zone – a dance club – not the Silver Dollar. So it will be suitable for certain live shows,” he comments. “You start by trying a show and finding out if bands and showgoers like the place. And you build from there.”
The interior of the new Silver Dollar
As a booker and Parkdale resident who now works closely with the Horseshoe, Lee’s Palace, Monarch Tavern and occasionally the Baby G, the Garrison, Longboat Hall and Lula Lounge, Burke is reticent to celebrate the advent of a new venue for its own sake. Allowing that the Parkdale address is a “very good location,” he tempers that enthusiasm with concern over the mixed-use neighbourhood’s rising rents and redevelopment.
“The real concern is if developing musicians can afford to live and play in Toronto,” he writes.
Burke relates an all-too familiar anecdote: his own landlord offered him a $5,000 sum to vacate his apartment while newer building tenants pay double his rent.
“Forget about venues, the disappearance of artists is the biggest threat to the music scene here,” he says.
The Comfort Zone is the first after-hours party space the neighbourhood has had in years, so it intersects with Parkdale gentrification in more ways than one. It’s already a target for NIMBY scrutiny for noise and crowd control.
But a press release boasts that the new sound system (a combination of the classic system and new equipment) is “powerful enough to bring back the old Zone days,” while ensuring crowd management and sound containment are an ongoing subject of internal focus, and insisting “our techs are mindful of our neighbourhood.”
For a displaced and embattled after-hours scene, it’s a critical new stronghold for late-night culture – joining the Entertainment District’s Club 120 and the Village’s Vertigo, the Parkdale Comfort Zone is one of just three dedicated after-hours spots remaining downtown, compared to the fistfuls that existed when it opened at College and Spadina in 1996, originally replacing BUZZ when it left to become Industry at King and Strachan.
“Toronto is a major international entertainment city and, as such, we should cover all the bases of nightlife, and support all of our artists,” Yarmus writes. “Some people like to stay out later than others.”
Ntiforo echoes the sentiment, invoking the city’s service industries and the constant hustle that increasingly defines the city as rents go up and residents pick up gigs to make up the difference.
“It’s not just a 9-to-5 city. You want Toronto to be a major city, then it needs to be a major city, and part of that is having something for people to do at all times of night,” she says. “It’s a city that never sleeps, you know?”