Rivoli Redux: fresh touches come to the Queen West venue

RIVOLI RELAUNCH at the Rivoli (334 Queen West), Tuesday (June 14). rivoli.ca.

Two years after the Rivoli quietly changed ownership, the Queen West institution’s back room, menu and patio are getting a refresh.

On Tuesday (June 14), owners Jenna Wood, Sarah Henning and Jessica McHardy are relaunching the 34-year-old cultural institution where Adele played her first-ever Toronto concert.

“The three of us came into this huge operation guns a-blazing with changes that we wanted to make,” explains McHardy. “But it’s a big place and a lot of work. It took us time to make all of the tweaks without freaking people out.”

In 2014, long-time Rivoli owners Andre Rosenbaum, David Stearn and Jeff Strasburg – who also own the nearby Queen Mother Café – bowed out and sold the business, which includes a backroom stage, a side bar, dining room, patio and a pool hall with vintage billiard tables upstairs. 

The back room has a new paint job, and hardwood flooring has replaced the much-loathed carpet onstage. (“‘Carpet’ is a really strong word,” says Wood. “It was past its prime.”) But the analog soundboard remains. The trio have also revamped the green room, hired booker Serge Sargento and are taking a more hands-on approach to programming, with an eclectic mix of concerts, stand-up comedy, variety shows, burlesque and drag performances. 

McHardy, who launched Dundas West restaurant the Federal’s nighttime menu before joining the Rivoli, has updated the menu. Pad thai, wookie balls and calamari are still available, but she’s added options – sandwiches, salads and a veggie burger – aimed at those looking for a light lunch. 

The Rivoli is also bringing back a weekend brunch featuring a blue cheese BLT, banana bread, a brunch salad and steak and eggs. “There are a lot more residential condos in the area now, but not a lot of places to get a decent brunch, especially on a patio,” says McHardy.

Meanwhile, the patio will look a little brighter. The awning is coming down, strings of lights are going up, the railings are being recovered with stained cedar, and flower boxes are getting installed. There are new TVs and a photo booth in the pool hall and a new Toronto-themed cocktail menu featuring Sex On Cherry Beach, Champagne Papi and Kensington Sling, among others.

Visitors to the all-day relaunch party can enjoy Kung Fu Dawgs and snow cones from the new machine on the patio, free games of pool upstairs, an exhibition by rock photographer Vanessa Heins and musical performances in the back room.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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