“Closed Forever!” reads the sign scrawled in red marker on a plain sheet of paper taped to the door of Club Toronto on Mutual St.
Famous for its outdoor pool, infamous as the site of the 2000 Pussy Palace police raid, the venerable downtown Toronto bathhouse closed abruptly on the morning of April 1. Calls to the club went unanswered, and emails bounced back as workmen tore out the insides of the place.
“It’s being gutted,” says one of them, hauling planks of wood past the pool. Another, also declining to be identified, shrugs and says, “I didn’t even know it was a bathhouse…. I thought it was just a boarded-up place.”
Peter Bochove, owner of another nearby bathhouse, Spa Excess, laughs when he hears this.
“Those workmen are actually the owners,” he says. “I knew Club Toronto was closing before they did.”
Bochove got his start in the bathhouse business at Club Toronto in 1973. He says he sent former owner and boss Peter Moloney an email recently that read, “I finally put you guys out of business!”
The club, he says, has had “ongoing difficulties” in a market that’s become increasingly constricted in an era of online pickups. If business has been tough on everyone, Bochove says, it was especially difficult for Rick Armstrong, who bought Club Toronto in 2005 but, according to Bochove, “had no money to fix it up.”
“I can’t imagine the expense of running a place like that,” says Goodhandy’s nightclub co-owner Todd Klinck. “Just the hydro bills at my club are so high!”
Klinck says he hasn’t been to Club Toronto since he wrote about it in his guide to Toronto bathhouses for fab magazine in March of 2008. He awarded the place “best overall facilities” in a previous 2003 review, but in 2008, he wrote, “I found it chilly and drafty, reeking of cigarette and pot smoke, and populated solely by staff and two hustlers.”
Still, says Klinck, “It was pretty cool having an outdoor pool where you could be naked and have sex…. It was an icon of Toronto.”
Given the state of the club in recent years, it feels like a mercy killing. The workman (owner?) now gutting the place says, “I do heritage restoration sites and I gotta say, it’s a shithole inside.”
But what is Club Toronto, housed in a 122-year-old historical site, being restored into? Under the direction of a man choosing to remain silent and inside the building, one of the workmen/owners says it will reopen in two months as a swingers’ club.
“Two months?” exclaims the second worker. “We’ll still be ripping it apart!”