Will they at least keep the giant plastic guitar? As Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square welcomes the Sam the Record Man sign, an enhanced new advertising and broadcasting program, and—around the corner—a piece of Honest Ed's, it looks like Yonge Street's Hard Rock Café will be making way for a Shoppers Drug Mart.
Located at the south end of the square, the Yonge Street restaurant's prominent Yonge-Dundas frontage lends it a highly conspicuous presence, with the kitsch eatery effectively sliding into the square and its highly commercial surroundings. According to Retail Insider, that will soon change, with the property at 279 Yonge Street now leased to the ubiquitous retail pharmacy chain. Ahead of the closure, however, a new Downtown location for the global chain restaurant is reportedly being sought.
With the lease for the 22,000 ft² property expiring in June of this year, the three-storey property entered the market for the first time in 35 years. The annual rent is swelling to $2 million, approximately double the rate currently paid by Hard Rock Café, which has operated at Yonge-Dundas since 1978.
Adding to an already concentrated roster of pharmacies along Yonge—at King and Carlton—as well as nearby locations at 10 Dundas East and the CF Eaton Centre, the addition of another Shoppers Drug Mart in place of the rather more animated restaurant—and its sizeable patio–is a reflection of the area's rising real estate prices.
It's a familiar phenomenon—and in a sense a crisis of success—that has conspicuously played out across high-value markets, notably including much of Manhattan, and lately, pockets of Downtown Toronto. As retail corridors become more desirable, the accompanying rise in prices can make street-fronting spaces inaccessible to the fine-grained, and (often) independent cafés, restaurants, and retailers that spur vitality in the first place, leaving behind a succession of pharmacies and banks. And while the Hard Rock Café—itself a corporate entity—is hardly the embodiment of any sort of Toronto-specifc character, the restaurant has been an animated and engaging presence on the street since the late 70s. Now, for all the new lights and signs, there will be one less place to go.
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available, and the plans continue to take shape. As it stands, the Hard Rock Café is set to vacate the space in May. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below this page.