RubyFringe Guide: Boozin’ in Accordion City

Joey\'s Unofficial Ruby Fringe Guide to Toronto - Small logoWelcome to the third installment in Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, a series of offbeat articles to acquaint attendees of the upcoming RubyFringe conference with Accordion City.

There’ve been two articles in the series so far:

  1. Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?
  2. Getting from the Airport to the Hotel

In this article, I’ll cover the social lubricant that helps keep a good tech conference going: booze!

The Legal Drinking Age in Ontario: 19

If you look at Wikipedia’s Legal Drinking Age page, there are generally two places with a drinking age of 21 and some regions which ban the sale (and sometimes consumption) of alcohol:

  • A handful of Muslim countries that allow alcohol: Indonesia (except Bali), Oman, Pakistan and United Arab Emirates, and
  • the United States of America

Here in Ontario, as with most of Canada, the legal age drinking age is 19. Underage drinking is permitted at home under adult supervision. No, underage RubyFringers, you cannot come to my house to drink. A number of RubyFringe after-conference events will be taking place in or near licensed establishments, so be sure to bring some government ID with you — a driver’s licence or passport will do.

Where Do You Buy Liquor and Beer in Ontario?

If Ontario has a more civilized legal drinking age, we pay for it in terms of where we can buy it. The sale of beer and liquor is limited — with a few exceptions — to two types of stores:

Logo for LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores

The first type: the LCBO (short for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario), a set of stores run by the Ontario government that carries, spirits, wines and beers.

Storefront for \"The Beer Store\"

The second type: The Beer Store. Its official name is Brewers Retail, but since everyone calls it “The Beer Store”, that’s what they typically display on their storefronts. They sell beer and beer paraphernalia.

Okay, Enough Preamble. Where’s the Alcohol Store Closest to the Hotel?

Of the two types of store, the closest one to the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto is the LCBO at the Atrium on Bay, a shopping centre located a mere two blocks away. If you walk out of the hotel, take a left until you hit Dundas Street, then turn right and walk two blocks. The LCBO is on the lower level, about half a block into the shopping centre. Here’s a map:

Map showing the path from the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto to the LCBO at the Atrium on Bay

This LCBO keeps these hours:

  • Monday – Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Thursday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The Beer Hunter is Your Friend!

The \"Beer Hunter Guy\"

The Beer Hunter is a Google Maps mash-up that shows you the locations and hours of alcohol retail outlets in Ontario, aswell as which stores are open right now. It’s a creation of local web development shop Bad Math, and was recently featured in at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit, Design and the Elastic Mind.

I’m Crashing at a Friend’s House. Can I Get Booze Delivered There?

Yes, you can! For a CDN$8.00 delivery charge, The Beer Guy lets you order alcohol online for home delivery in one hour.

Okay, Enough About Stores. What About Bars? Any Good Ones Near the Hotel?

There are a number of bars within walking distance of the hotel. Here are three decent ones that I used to frequent when I lived in the neighbourhood. They’re not cookie-cutter drinking establishments that you can find anywhere, but places with some character and local vibe.

Interior shots of The Village Idiot Pub

The Village Idiot Pub (126 McCaul Street, about 6 minutes’ walk from the hotel). This one’s a hangout for locals as well as art students from the Ontario College of Art and Design or visitors to the Art Gallery of Ontario, both of which are just across the street. The bar has about two dozen higher-end beers on tap, from imports like Guinness, Leffe Brune and Kronenberg 1664 to local microbrews like Waterloo Dark (a favourite of mine) and Brick Honey Brown. The outer walls of the bar are garage doors which are rolled up in the summer to let the air in.

I made some decent coin (and a lot of beer!) busking here during the great blackout of 2003.

The Rex Hotel

The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar (194 Queen Street West, about 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel). A jazz and blues institution since I was in high school, The Rex is a retro, just-divey-enough place that has a decent selection of beer and live blues and jazz. I’ve seen some pretty good acts here and have stumbled home tipsy many a night from this joint.

Interior of Smokeless Joe

Smokeless Joe (125 John Street, about 12 minutes’ walk from the hotel). This is a place for the serious beer enthusiast. With a half-dozen taps and a couple hundred bottled beers, this tiny, friendly place was my preferred watering hole when I lived in the neighbourhood. If you want some food to go with your beer, they have delicious sandwiches and some pretty good oysters.

I’ve been there on some pretty good dates, such as this one as well as my first date with The Ginger Ninja.

When is Last Call in Ontario?

Bars and pubs have to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m..

Is There Any Way to Get Served Booze After 2 a.m.?


I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the urban legend of “cold tea”, only that the urban legend exists. It does, after all, exist as an entry in Urban Dictionary.

There are speakeasies in town; the local term for them is “booze cans”. Their locations change over time, and the ones from my days as a single guy probably no longer exist. The best way to locate these places is to ask anyone who works in the entertainment/service industry such as a bartender or waiter; they’re where they go when their shifts end.

Be advised that you’ll get more out of the conference if you get some decent sleep and aren’t hung over…


A Failed Attempt at Escalator Spinning

Inspired by the “Escalator Spinning” video (which I showed in this entry), some guy decided to give it a try, with less-than-spectacular results…

[My thanks to Chad Nolan for the heads-up!]


Technological Mishap of the Day

So far, two things that my friend Miss Fipi Lele sent me this morning have made me laugh out loud. The first is the video showing what happens when you smash a can of WD-40. The second is this set of “before and after” photos:

Hilarious \"before and after\" shots of guy and a full-size radio-controlled Hummer
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

These look staged, but this remote control Hummer exists and the mishap actually happened when a butterfingered journo for a British tabloid took it for a test drive (here’s the resulting article).


What Happens When You Smash a Can of WD-40?

Apparently, this:


RubyFringe Guide: Getting from the Airport to the Hotel

Joey\'s Unofficial Ruby Fringe Guide to Toronto - Small logoIn preparation for people coming to Accordion City to attend the RubyFringe conference (as well as those of you who are coming here this summer for other reasons), I’m writing Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, a series of articles with useful tips for visiting our fair city.

So far, I’ve published one article: Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?, in which I explained to visiting smokers that you can buy cigarettes in stores here; they’re just hidden in large, featureless cabinets behind the counter.

In this article, I’m going to cover the cheapest way to get to the conference hotel, the Metropolitan, from the airport.

There are Two Metropolitan Hotels!

This may be a source of confusion, so make sure you’re aware of this: there are two Metropolitan Hotels in town. Both are owned by the same hotel chain, and they’re a fifteen-minute walk from each other!

RubyFringe is taking place at the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto, located at 108 Chestnut Street, which is behind City Hall and on the edge of Chinatown. If the front of the hotel looks like the photo below, you’re in the right place:

Front entrance of the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto

The other hotel is the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel on 318 Wellington Street West and is a hop, skip and a jump away from Toronto’s domed stadium, The Rogers Centre. If the front of the hotel looks like the photo below, you’re in the wrong place!

Front of the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel

(There’s nothing wrong with the Soho Met: it’s a nice place and swankier than the Metropolitan Toronto; it’s just that the conference isn’t taking place there.)

For this article and any other in this series, when I refer to the Metropolitan Hotel, I’m referring to the Metropolitan Toronto, the conference venue.

The Distance

Lester B. Pearson International Airport (airport code YYZ, which is where Rush got the name for their song with Neil Peart’s legendary drum solo) is a bit of a hike from downtown Accordion City. It’s 27 kilometres (about 17 miles) from the airport to the Metropolitan Hotel, a span on par with the distances between Los Angeles International Airport and its downtown core, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and the Chicago Loop and Newark’s Liberty Airport and midtown Manhattan.

The Most Expensive Way: Renting a Car and Driving (Round trip: $lots)

If you were to drive from the airport to the hotel, you’d get on Highway 427 and go south to the Gardiner Expressway and follow it east. Google Maps says to exit at Spadina, I say take the Bay/York Street exit and follow York Street to where it forks and take the University Avenue fork (Spadina has fewer lanes and is downtown Chinatown’s main drag, which makes it slower going). Either way, you go north to Dundas, at which point you turn east and go a short way to Chestnut Street, where the hotel is.

Map showing road directions from Pearson Airport to Metropolitan Hotel Toronto
Google Map showing directions from Pearson Airport to the Metropolitan.
Click the map to see it on its Google Maps page.

The Second Most Expensive Way: Taking a Cab or Airport Limo (Round trip: $90 – 100)

If you were take a cab or airport limo from the airport to the hotel today, it would cost around $40. However, cab fares are going up in July because of skyrocketing gas prices, so a cab ride will probably cost more by the time RubyFringe takes place. The trip should take about 35 – 40 minutes if traffic isn’t too bad. It’s probably the fastest, lowest-hassle way to get to the hotel from the airport.

The Cheapest Way: The TTC (Round trip: $5.50)

The cheapest way to get to the hotel is via public transit — the TTC. It will cost you a grand total of $2.75 and take about 45 minutes to an hour. It involves a bus trip, followed by a ride on the subway.

The first leg of the trip is to take the 192 Airport Rocket bus. It stops at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

(Don’t worry about it not stopping at Terminal 2: it’s being renovated and not being used for anything!)

I know that going to a strange town and not knowing what things look like can throw you off, so I’ve gathered some photos to help orient you. TTC bus stops are marked by signs that look like this:

TTC bus stop sign

Here’s what the airport bus stop looks like:

\"Airport Rocket\" bus pulling into the airport bus stop

And here’s what a TTC bus looks like:

TTC bus

Make sure that you board only the 192 Airport Rocket bus; it’s an express bus that goes straight to the subway station. The others will eventually take you to a subway station, but they’re regular bus routes and take much longer.

In case you were wondering, the $2.75 fare you pay on the bus will cover the whole trip to the hotel.

Here’s the schedule for the Airport Rocket. The trip to Kipling subway station should take about 20 minutes.

Once you’re at Kipling station, take the train east to St. George station. At St. George station, you’ll go up one floor, which takes you to the north-south-running trains on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. Take the train south to St. Patrick station.

Map showing TTC subway trip from Kipling to St. Patrick station
Click the map to see it at full size.

Exit St. Patrick station, and you’ll be a mere two blocks away from the hotel:

Map showing St. Patrick subway station and Metropolitan Toronto Hotel

The Middle-of-the-Road Way: Airport Express Bus (Round trip: $29.95)

Airport Express bus (Toronto)

The Airport Express bus stops at both Terminals 1 and 3, involves less lugging stuff around than taking the subway and takes slightly longer than a cab would. It stops at a number of hotels in the downtown core, including the Metropolitan.

They advertise that their buses are WiFi equipped, which might come in handy if you really feel the need to check your email or IM everyone that you’ve arrived.


Escalator Spinning

With the rising cost of oil putting a damper on travel plans, more people are spending their holidays at home on “staycations” and finding local fun. For starters, you don’t have to go to Vegas for Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics: all you need is the escalator at the nearby mall:

* I am not responsible for mall security pepper-spraying you or for any injuries resulting from your attempts at escalator spinning.


“He Said It First”

Cindy and John McCain, striking an

The comedy troupe Public Service Administration have put together a high-larious video that pokes fun at John McCain’s outburst in which he flipped out and used the “c-word” on Wife 2.0 in 1992.

John’s outburst — “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c***!” was in response to Cindy’s remark about his balding. She was stealing drugs from her own charity around that time, so if John had said “At least I don’t steal drugs from my own charity, you junkie!” it would’ve been a considerably more appropriate comeback.

Then again, she was using the drugs to cope with the stress of the Keating Five scandal, so she can be excused. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

But enough history. It’s comedy time!

Here’s the uncensored, so terribly not-safe-for-work version of the comedy piece, in which the c-word is unbleeped:

And here’s the only-slightly-safer-for-work version in which the c-word is bleeped out, which turns into a bleepfest:

[Thanks to Kelly Seagram for the heads-up!]