Toslow: Small Spot Fills Big Void in Local Bar Scene

It feels like hanging out in a friend’s living, and unlike most bars, you can actually see and hear each other. Face to face time is a rare commodity these days, so it’s nice to enjoy it.

If you like good beer and cocktails, and catching up with a pal, or if you’re looking for an ideal spot for a quick and casual post-work or work-meeting pint, Toslow is pretty perfect. It feels like hanging out in a friend’s living room, and unlike most bars, you can actually see and hear each other. Face to face time is a rare commodity these days, so it’s nice to enjoy it.

Toslow will double-duty as a music venue with shows from time to time. “We make no bones about being a professional venue. Our roots are, however, in DIY punk, so for now we have a house kit, a bass amp, and a single speaker PA system,” they say.

“We highly encourage anyone who thinks that sounds neat to reach out to us about booking the room. It’s not Massey Hall, but it’s our little spot, and we’re happy to share with anyone who can respect the space and our approach.”

Toslow was launched by Jessica Gibson, Glen May, and Chris Scott – neither a stranger to the city’s food and culture scene, having clocked years of work upstairs at Fixed Coffee & Baking, and on-stage in seminal St. John’s bands like Yee Grlz, Conditioner, and Coach long Legs.

“We went into this together as a group for a few reasons,” May says.

“Chris and I have worked together on Shed Island promotions/festival for years now, and Jess and I worked together at Fixed for four years. When Chris moved home from Montreal, leaving behind a successful screen printing operation, we had long since established that we wanted to open some sort of snack bar and music venue.

“Chris is a big beer drinker, Jess is the brains behind the cocktails and the snacks, and I’ve always been interested in operating a music venue. One thing we’ve always noticed was an absence in the local scene of those three interests converging in one space.”

With cocktails like “Hibiscus Fizz,” a few good beers on tap, a craft beer list that’s totally on point, and snacks like kimchi popcorn or jerk-spiced cashews, what’s not to love really. The fact they’re a snack bar is somewhat by circumstance: one of St. John’s many bizarre by-laws forbids them to serve drinks without also serving food.

“The story goes that someone, thirty odd years back, had an issue with late night establishments serving alcohol to a belligerent clientele in our area,” May explains. “Whoever it was had enough sway to create a provincial bylaw enforced by the city of St. John’s that made it impossible for the NLC to issue lounge licenses within 50 meters of the War Memorial.”

Conveniently, serving food was always part of the plan anyway, so it wasn’t too bad of a curveball. “But it did add another layer of red tape to an already difficult and time consuming game of ‘jump through the hoops,’” May says.

The quirk of needing to provide snacks is no harm: cheap, salty snacks enhance your beer, drink, and conversation (what better way to fill a lull in conversation, than to fill your mouth with something tasty).

It’s part of the chill vibe anyway: snacks make people feel cozy, welcome, and not like they’re loitering if their glass is empty. “The food we’re offering now is affordable and simple to keep us from passing on the cost of adhering to the bylaw to you,” May has said.

Toslow is located along the steps by the War memorial on Duckworth Street; in the former space of Broken Books.

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