Farewell to the Hard Rock Cafe

TORONTO - Jeff Healey’s Fender guitar is on the wall to the right and Alex Lifeson’s Gibson to the left.


Next to them is Geddy Lee’s Fender Jazz bass.

Not far away at the Hard Rock Cafe on Yonge St. are guitars from Bruce Cockburn, Tom Cochrane, Joni Mitchell, the Barenaked Ladies, Nickelback, Robbie Robertson, Randy Bachman, and Shania Twain.

A Bryan Adams tour jacket is here. One from the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie too. A Maple Leafs sweater worn on stage by Triumph’s Mike Levine.

The Canadian talent is well represented but world superstars also have memorabilia in display cases too, including Elton John, Prince, will.i.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Gene Simmons, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan.

A lot of history on those walls at Yonge and Dundas.

Even more memories.

The iconic Toronto landmark closed its doors on Sunday after almost 40 years of being centre stage.

The guitars and memorabilia will be sent down to Orlando, Fla. to be put in storage.

Of course, the Hard Rock Cafe shuttering is not just a restaurant closure story. It’s the closure of a Canadian rock ’n’ roll hall of fame.

And let’s not forget one of the last looks of what Yonge Street was for a generation in Toronto before the condos and shopping supercentres. The 1960s and ’70s version of Yonge has been disappearing in the last decade — just up the street, Sam The Record Man, A&A Records and the Gasworks are long gone.

But since 1978, the Hard Rock Cafe had survived all the modernization and had become one of the busiest tourist stops in the city. It didn’t close because of lack of business. It was doing very well, especially since a 2001 renovation. However, rent in a booming city is rising and, as has been seen all over town, a business with deeper pockets is going to take the location.

The new tenant will be Shoppers Drug Mart.

I know what you are thinking. There are three Shoppers locations within a Tiger Woods drive.

But word is it’s going to be a special Shoppers store focused on cosmetics and will be an attraction too.

“We have been in contact with Shoppers to see about keeping some historic music references as part of the new store — like Rexall did with the former Brunswick House,” Mark Garner, Downtown Yonge BIA executive director, said.

One thing I suggest they keep in the new store is the patio that overlooks Yonge-Dundas Square. Maybe a coffee shop company could get involved, but this square should be as much about people as it is about glass and cement.

“It’s sad,” HRC regular Brent Coppin said. “It’s just another nail in the heart of the rock ’n ’roll glory days of Toronto.”

The other part that hurts with this closure is it’s another live music venue gone forever. The Carpet Frogs played the final stage performance here Thursday and were joined for a nostalgia tour by iconic Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, who told the crowd that the Hard Rock and the previous incarnations The Nickelodeon and The Friars accepted him as a live player when he first came to Canada.

Others who graced this stage include Oscar Peterson, Bill Haley & His Comets, Dizzy Gillespie, David Clayton-Thomas, Robbie Lane, Ocean, The Platters, The Coasters, The Drifters, and The Silhouettes.

This place was like Toronto’s own Cavern Club, where both future icons and established stars all played on that stage.

“It’s unfortunate that we are losing this live music venue,” said Garner. “But we need to do everything we can to maintain, and build on, the musical heritage that has made this such a vibrant and vital neighbourhood.”

The truth is that era is gone. But not the memories.

RIP, Hard Rock Cafe.

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