The Future of King West

There has always been a link between night-life and real estate values.

My experience on Saturday night only amplified my thoughts about the King West area.

The following is a bit of a rant, and it might seem hypocritical if you skim the text, but it’s all I can say in response to a culture in Toronto that I don’t really want any part of…

kingstreetwesttoronto.jpg

Cheval

Spice Route

Brant House

West

Brassaii

Dolce

Ah yes, – Dolce.  The newest, coolest, and most ‘exclusive’ of the over-priced, over-hyped, and over-the-top hot spots in the King West area.

On Saturday night, I enjoyed a rather brisk walk along King Street West.

I had three friends birthdays to attend this weekend, and I flew a bit of a solo mission in order to see them all.

I love our city and all that it has to offer, and some nights when I need to clear my head after a long day of work, I’ll go for a walk; just flip a coin, and pick a direction.  There’s always something to see.

On Saturday night, I walked west along King Street towards Dolce at King & Bathurst.  I marveled at the transformation of this once-barren area into what currently serves as the hottest locale for night-life in our city.  The real estate prices have skyrocketed, and condos on Portland, Brant, Morrison, Camden, Oxley, Charlotte and of course King Street, have become the most sought after in this burgeoning residential area.

If it were up to me, I’d probably settle for a game of Golden Tee at Betty’s on King East, but I’m not averse to spending a night in the back room at Brassaii, or at the glorified grade-eight dance that is Dolce.

“Have money, will spend,” goes the maxim of today’s 20-30-something young person, and youngin’s are flocking to Cheval and Spice Route like it’s going out of style.

I arrived at Dolce on Saturday night at about 12:45AM, and thankfully there was no line-up; meaning no groveling necessary, and I could save the $40 it might have cost me otherwise to get past the doorman.

I walked up to the velvet rope, and the doorman politely asked, “May I help you, sir?”

I paused for a moment, unsure of what to say, other than, “Um, yes, I would like to enter the premises.”  What else could I possibly want?  Asking somebody, “May I help you?” is more reserved for the cashier at McDonalds than for the doorman at a night-club.

After sheepishly saying, “I’d like to come in,” the doorman asked me, “And are you with any parties tonight, sir?  Any reservations, guest lists, groups; any name you might be under?”

Geez, whatever happened to just going somewhere and having a good time?

I told him, “I’m here for Krista & Natasha’s birthday.  They’re all inside already.”

I had successfully negotiated the first two obstacles to entry, but the third would prove heavy.

“Great,” he responded with a smile.  “But just to let you know, we do require a dress shoe to gain admittance.”

Oh-Em-Gee.

Please tell me you’re kidding.

“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I begged, as I looked down at my beautiful Hugo Boss “athletic inspired” dress shoes, and wondered if he really wasn’t going to let me in to see all my friends because he didn’t like my shoes.

What is the world coming to?

Is this what King West is all about?

“Forget the shoes,” I pleaded, how do you feel about the rest of my outfit?” I asked, somewhat facetiously, albeit somewhat inquisitively as well.

“Sir, I like the ensemble.  I think you look great, but it’s the shoes.  We can’t let you inside with those shoes; this is a high society establishment and we have a certain level of integrity to adhere to.”

Integrity, eh?

Alrighty, then.

So here is where I might sound like a hypocrite.

I also might sound like an ass, and while I want to be perfectly clear that I’m in no way attempting to brag about my wardrobe, I am trying to drive home my point as best as I can, and the ‘integrity’ of my story can only come with certain disclosures.

My outfit that night was not cheap.  I swear – I only own Diesel Jeans, Versace tees, and a Hugo Boss blazer because my next door neighbour works in the P.R. industry and routinely gets me 40% discount cards at these fine, over-priced clothing jaunts.

And I also only own these items because I have to.

If I want to attend my best friend’s birthday at Dolce, I can’t exactly show up in sweat-pants and say, “I’m sticking it to the man!  Down with the establishment!”

So I pointed out to the friendly door-man that my clothing (except for my Joe Boxer underwear and the socks I got at Winners) were perfectly suited to join the rest of the “high society” types that were already inside paying $9.50 for a drink.  I explained to him that my blazer was incredibly expensive and its “sporty” design went perfectly with my sport-inspired dress shoes.

I felt quite like Patrick Bateman as I explained to the headset-wearing, fingerless-glove-toting, roid-rager how I could easily have worn a cheap pair of $40 “dress shoes” that I got at Browns specifically to wear to bars where I know they’ll be mucked up on the dance floor and have liquor spilled on them all night, but alas, I decided to “dress up” by wearing my goddam Hugo shoes!!!

Denied.

He wasn’t hearing it.

You know those moments when about ten minutes worth of thoughts flow through your mind in the space of mere seconds?  That’s what I felt as I stood on the cold, lonely sidewalk on King West on Saturday night, picturing my friends inside (with dress shoes), having a good time, laughing, dancing, and loving life; simultaneously picturing myself tucking my tail in between my legs, getting in a cab, and going home.

My brow furrowed as I ran multiple scenarios through my head, most of which ended with me going home even more sour on the night-life our city has to offer.  Not for a second did I envision myself passing through those glorious velvet ropes and being given the privilege to spend $100 inside of a half hour.

But somebody in the night-club heavens was looking down on me that night, as the assistant manager poked his head out the door at the opportune moment.   I engaged him in a fictitious conversation which involved me picking up these “custom-designed,” “limited edition” Hugo Boss shoes in Paris on the Champs-Elysees over Christmas for 350 Euros.

He loved my story.  And he loved my seemingly expensive shoes.

Sometimes, it pays to be a good liar.

I actually picked up these shoes at the Hugo Boss “Friends & Family” sale in November for about 50% off the retail price.

I was allowed into the premises, but “only this one time.”  Next time, I was told, I’d better be wearing the proper footwear.

Once I paid the $20 cover charge and poked past twenty guys in suits that all looked the same, I walked into the glorified square-dance and realized that unless you were actually laying on the floor, there’s no way that anybody could tell what anybody else was wearing on their feet. It’s loud, dark, people are moving, and people’s worlds are spinning after ingesting all that alcohol.

So why all the fuss over my goddam shoes?

This is what King West has become all about.

It’s about the illusion of prestige, and the arbitrary rules that govern us in this social conformity, such as wearing a dressy shoe to a particular establishment, despite having no accuratley defined notion of “dressy.”

Some of my favorite condominiums are in the King West area, but it’s experiences like this one at Dolce that would sour me on living in the area.

Look, I have probably put 20-25 clients into the King West area, and I’m working with 5-6 buyers right now that have 66 Portland, Quad Lofts, Zen Lofts, and others atop their lists.  I love the buildings, I love the styles and the interior finishes, and I really do like the area.

I just hate the culture.

I hate the attitude.

And I hate the elitist mentality that takes over this beautiful neighbourhood once the sun goes down on a weekend.

Yes, I frequent these establishments.

Yes, I own the designer labels that I constantly mock on my blog.

But I’m a chameleon, attempting to take part in all that life has to offer, while not necessarily doing so by choice.

Peter Freed of Freed Developments has been quoted as saying that King West is going to be a $700 per square foot neighbourhood.  With the launch of his flagship “Thompson Residences,” his vision could eventually come to fruition.

So while King West real estate prices could continue to rise in value, and the area is still numero-uno for young people, it just doesn’t fit with my current lifestyle expectations and comfort level.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go polish my new dress shoes…

15 Comments

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  1. Loved your take on Toronto King West. It definitely isn’t for everyone!

  2. harp says:

    I also want to see the shoes! Please post image.

  3. David Fleming says:

    @ Clide

    I searched the Internet for a picture of the shoes, but I can’t find any!!

  4. Clide says:

    I want to see the shoes.

  5. LITB says:

    This comment stream nostalgically takes me back to a time when I too was naive and impressionable…I’m pretty certain it was unseasonably warm that day.

  6. LC says:

    I’m not a fan of either King West or Queen West. But if I had to choose, I’d pick Queen West, as it’s authentic. Not my scene at all, but I appreciate it’s rawness. The only reason I’d visit King West, is to buy sports gear at MEC.

  7. WEB says:

    One more comment….reminds me a little of my visit to the Oakville waterfront/downtown last summer. We looked for a place to eat dinner but to my dismay every restaurant was filled with people in suits! Every single one! We had to ask a local where we could eat while dressed in jeans. Thankfully, we were told of one place where we could go.

  8. WEB says:

    I’ll be moving to the beaches soon- I am moving there partly because it is 100% opposite of King West. But I do wish that there were more places open after 11.

    Anyhow, I own some shares in Diageo (largest spirits company in the world), Anheuser Busch InBev, Heineken and SABMiller, and so I hope that the nightlife in King West lives on!

  9. Destructicus says:

    As a seasoned veteran of Toronto night life here are my own arbitrary rules I follow for fun:

    1- If there’s a line it better be because the number of people trying to get in can’t physically fit through the door at one time. Otherwise there’s a risk of waiting outside 30 minutes to an hour because it’s “at capacity” only to enter a mostly empty club because the club wanted to create the illusion that it’s busy to build interest. Or there’s the risk of being in a club where it’s impossible to walk anywhere without an elbow tipping your drink onto your clothes.

    2- If there’s a cover it better be going to a band or a cause. The exception is if the cover is only $5, maybe cause the bar is showing UFC.

    3- Dress codes are for restaurants with table clothes/napkins made from the same material as the table cloth, or costume events. Clubs/events with an elitist self opinion as the dress code present a huge risk of running into somebody with something to prove who can spoil your night, and are rarely ever anymore fun than the friends you go with.

    Sports bars, live venues, and dance nights with themes are the where the night life fun is.

    And in contrast to your story, every Monday you can see 5 indie bands (usually at least 2 are solid) at the Drake for zero cover, cheap domestic bottles, and free food. I’ve had more fun at these Mondays then any Friday or Saturday at any club with a bottle service section.

  10. fidel says:

    Queen West bars are the exact opposite, much more fun to be had at Velvet Underground or Nasa than the bourgeois king west places

  11. Meh says:

    I love that we’ve gotten to the point in the hysteria where adding *more* supply to an area will *increase* the area’s price. Genius.

    Sure the average price may increase if that building is the most expensive one in the area, but fundamentally all the other buildings should see a decrease due to the new building (and that’s not to say prices will fall, but rather they may just not grow as much as they would have if the building wasn’t built).

  12. Gerrit says:

    Funny, I think every guy has lived that story. It’s become completely ridiculous and soured me off all of those clubs as well. Though I must say, as a King west resident (I live right around that bar), the area does offer a lot more than just clubs.

    It’s got great restaurants (upscale and quick lunch spots), cool old factories renovated into businesses and lofts, and it’s a stones throw from a very cool area in queen west. As an almost 30 year old, it’s the area all of my friends flock to, even those from the east. It’s great to be able to walk home from most social outings. There are great bars that don’t have pretentious rules – like the underground or wide open. There’s tons of great venues to see bands in the area.

    I was in the beaches saturday night at 2:00am and couldn’t find anywhere to get something to eat after walking west for 30 minutes! Not to mention, it was a ghost town, I may have saw six people on the street. Took a cab to King west, and wow – there was a ton of options.

  13. buk says:

    what about the congestion and traffic in the area from thursday-saturday. I would hate to live in the strip of king from spadina to bathurst for this reason. Imagine pulling into the area at 11pm and taking 20minutes to get to your building? This has got to be annoying.

    Can the clubs really survive with so many people living close by? With fashion house, 650king, thompson residences and one more project on the north side of king, there will be a huge infusion of people in the area. What will the future of these clubs be? Can they really co-exist?

  14. Dave says:

    Agreed. I live on King West. Love the convenience of the location, but I hate the uncool, wanna be’s that show up on the weekend and then listlessly mill back and forth inside the clubs casting their eyes around looking for where the fun is at. (…although I will sheepishly admit that I like the basement dance floor at Brant House. Something about the low ceiling and wall of glowing skulls makes it work)

  15. earth mother says:

    Always refreshing when someone questions arbitrary rules and confronts the pseudo-authorities who enforce them…. and manages to out-wit them….
    Once again David you demonstrate that you are ‘too smart for school’…. I hope you didn’t wear holes into the shoes with all that walking!!

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