Today, almost two years to the date that The Big Bop (the much-loved and much-loathed all ages–friendly music venue that spent 20 years at the southeast corner of Queen and Bathurst) hosted its final show, the white tarp that had been hiding its replacement finally came down. CB2, a furniture-selling offshoot of Crate and Barrel, is opening at 651 Queen Street West this Saturday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m.
The Big Bop, iconic as it was, also happened to be something of an eyesore, and the preceding Holiday Tavern, which BlogTO’s Rick McGinnis called “a down-at-heels nightclub whose scuffed retro decor had gone from stage shows featuring jazz and R&B acts to mid-day drinkers and end-of-career strippers,” didn’t treat the corner much better.
But it wasn’t always this way: Before it was the Big Bop and the Holiday Tavern, 651 Queen West was the Occidental Hall, a handsome Masonic building built in the latter half of the 19th century. (Before that, from 1842 to 1858, military barracks stood where the building does now.) NOW once described the hall as such:
Built by the local lodges of the Masonic Order, it was a massive undertaking. The high-ceilinged, very ornate lodge chamber occupied the entire second floor. Below were three stores on Queen, among them, a showroom for piano manufacturers Mason & Risch, which took full advantage of the large plate glass windows to exhibit its latest models. The corner unit eventually attracted the United Cigar Store and co-tenants the Diamond Cab Company.
Modifications in 1948 converted the three stores into one for the Holiday Tavern, a dinner club complete with large illuminated marquee flowing down its front. The building was effectively decapitated, its third and fourth storeys, with elegant mansard roof, removed….[T]he entire building was parged, its buff and red brick exterior covered with a layer of masonry, with lines incised to imitate cut stone. When the site was christened the Big Bop in 1990, it was painted a garish purplish blue.
It might still be decapitated, but the building’s exterior, stripped of garish paint and otherwise restored, has never looked closer to how the Masonic Order intended it to.
Work is still underway inside and out; The Grid wasn’t allowed in this afternoon, since CB2′s insurance doesn’t cover nosy reporters. A year ago, though, OpenFile got a look inside after walls had been knocked down and piles of debris were still piled up where dancefloors used to be. At the time, CB2 had been slated to open in the summer of 2011, but delays pushed that opening date back, all the way to this Saturday. This time, they’re not taking any chances: Darryl Nelson, the store’s manager, tells The Grid that the doors are opening on Saturday whether the exterior work is finished or not. Queen and Bathurst has waited long enough.