When it’s busy, I use the staff entrance to leave, but it’s a lot more convenient to go through the main doors out onto Avenue Mont-Royal. I pause in front of the brass taps behind the perpetually sticky wooden bar top and stare out at the familiar view of my kingdom: Taverne Toulouse.
This place has gone through several looks since it opened in 2001, and the decorations have all been layered on top of one another throughout the years. The original dark leather man cave atmosphere is still detectable under the hipster-era additions of vintage chandeliers, quirky table lamps, and repurposed piping now used as shelving units. An entire wall devoted to graffiti and signatures bears testimony to the thousands of liquor-seeking souls who have wandered in here throughout the ages. There are a lot of penises scribbled on that wall, but there are also some genuinely thought-provoking works of artistry done in hasty sharpie strokes under the glow of the bar’s dim lights. I’ve lose track of time getting swept up in those cryptic messages of love and longing more times than I can count.
A few of our infamous posters grace the other walls, advertising deals on shots and pitchers with slogans like ‘What have you got Toulouse?’ and ‘You need Toulouse-en up.’ We have a small stage tucked away in a corner next to a DJ booth that faces a makeshift dance floor lined with mismatched leather couches. The latest addition to the decor is a neon sign all the staff pitched in on to get me for Christmas. It’s hung over the door to the toilets and spells out, ‘Please don’t do coke in the bathroom.’
-The Bar Next Door
Taverne Toulouse is about as 'dive bar' as dive bars get. I wanted to capture the feeling of a hole in the wall that's been there as long as anyone can remember, one of those true 'staple' bars that's worked its way into what gives the city its character and sense of self. In The Bar Next Doorl, Taverne Toulouse has been around for decades. Even as it struggles to keep its doors open, the staff and regulars who inhabit it like a second home all recognize that despite everything about the place that isn't working, the old dive bar has something worth holding onto, something that keeps them all coming back.
I don't think it's the decor or the lights or the music thumping through the stereo that capture the quintessential dive bar vibe. For me (and I think the staff of Taverne Toulouse would agree), the ideal dive bar is defined by a feeling, one that hits you as soon as you walk in the door. It's a sense of comfort, of escape, of knowing you're free to be whoever and however you are, even if only for a little while. A dive bar is somewhere you truly 'dive' into. It's a place that makes leaving the rest of the world behind easy, and when you finally emerge, that world usually feels just a bit easier to face.
As Monroe, says:
To understand what Taverne Toulouse means to me, you have to appreciate history. You have to appreciate connection. You have to know what it is to look at someone everyone else has written off and still see something worth saving.
There’s more to life than numbers and thresholds. There are things more important than goals and personal milestones. We live our lives so focused on the big picture, on that bright shiny future we’re all striving to achieve, that any person or place who can’t keep up gets left in the dirt when all they really needed was a hand to pull them up. At the end of the day, that’s what we give people here: a chance to put everything else on pause, to accept that even for just a few hours spent in good company with a cold beer, they are enough.
That’s what I want my customers to feel when they walk in the door. That’s what I want my staff to feel when they’re punching in. I want this bar to be a place where you can raise a toast in triumph or find consolation in defeat.
Find The Bar Next Door here.