Along with many other storied buildings in Toronto's east end, the once-thriving Maple Leaf Tavern was long neglected and seemingly lost to time. However, the historic building is nearing completion on a major revitalization effort that will soon see it restored and reopen as an upscale gastropub.
Owner Todd Morgan, who also runs Port restaurant in Pickering, has gutted the space and is leading the renovation by recreating the feel of the era when the space was in its heyday. We checked in with him on the transformation and what we can expect from the rebirthed Maple Leaf Tavern.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO THE MAPLE LEAF TAVERN?
I decided on the space because of its location and the building in general. My father grew up in the area and, after moving back to Ontario from B.C., I've lived in the area for eight years. Our first property [Port] is on the waterfront in Pickering where I grew up. The energy and growth of the GTA has always been focused on the west side, but the east is a gem to those who live there.
DESCRIBE WHAT THE NEW MAPLE LEAF TAVERN WILL BE ALL ABOUT.
We will be re-creating a North American tavern — a place that is a neighbourhood destination seven days a week, for a causal get-together or a special occasion. The layout and design compliments the era in which the original Maple Leaf Tavern may have thrived, the 1930s to 1960s, while still recognizing that we are in 2015.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAR?
Our bar experience will be as important as the dining experience. There's lots of great passion for product within our team.
WHAT'S THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING?
Built in 1910 as three separate storefronts, it was converted into the Hotel Maple Leaf in 1935 and operated under two owners until 1975. Then, the space changed hands multiple times through the 1980s, '90s and 2000s.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MAJOR CHALLENGES IN RENOVATING?
We have completely stripped the space and underpinned the building. New plumbing, HVAC and electrical was required. Unfortunately, other than the building, nothing too exciting was found in the walls.
WHAT'S GOING TO SET THE PLACE APART FROM OTHER EAST SIDE ESTABLISHMENTS?
We feel that the space and and our passion will allow uS to be a complementary piece in the community. We're excited to be working alongside so many other great places that have started to open in the east end.
THE BIG QUESTION EVERYONE IS WONDERING — WHEN ARE YOU OPENING?
We're looking at and early- to mid-January official opening. If we get the build-out complete and occupancy, we may open in a reduced form through December.