The first time I went to Bar Volo was like entering a whole new world.
Obviously I had been to bars before and had even been in quite a few that had extensive draught lists, but I had never before stepped foot in a place that so clearly and so passionately embraced craft beer as an ethos.
With the extensive list of beers I’d mostly never before heard of scrawled on a chalkboard, ordering at Volo initially felt complicated and a little intimidating.
Of course it wasn’t really and, after ordering a few rounds, I felt like an old pro. So much so that, like everyone else who visits, I couldn’t wait to come back to introduce the place to a beer-loving friend so that I could explain how the place worked like a veteran, share a flight, and likely experience something new again.
Sadly, the ability to share the experience that is Bar Volo will soon be coming to an end.
I’ve confirmed that the Morana family, the owners of Bar Volo, have received six month’s notice from their landlord and, after 28 years, will be leaving the space at 587 Yonge by the end of September.
Last month Toronto City council approved a 44-storey tower proposed by Cresford Capital Corporation for the east side of Yonge between Dundonald and Gloucester streets. Volo, and its neigbours, will be replaced with 528 residential units, 232 parking spaces, and the ubiquitous condo retail and commercial units.
Tomas Morana told me via email that the family is “working on another location for Bar Volo in the area but nothing is confirmed at this time.” He also let me know that right now he is focused on opening their new project at 612 College which he reiterated is a wholly different concept and not intended to be a replacement for Bar Volo.
Ralph Morana and his family have owned and operated Bar Volo on Yonge Street since 1988. At its inception, Volo was an Italian restaurant with a great wine list (people still reminisce fondly of Ralph Morana’s carbonara). Over time, Ralph and his sons Julian and Tomas converted the place into one of Canada’s best known craft beer bars. So much so that, for the last couple years, Bar Volo has been one of only 56 locations across 17 countries chosen by Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels to host Zwanze Day, a worldwide celebratory release of a limited one-off lambic beer that the participating bars serve simultaneously at 3:00pm on one day only.
Bar Volo was home to many of my craft beer “firsts.” I had my first beer from Dieu Du Ciel! there, for example (Rosée d’Hibiscus, incidentally, not Peche Mortel as you might have guessed). And I also had my first sour beer there (I’m not sure what that one was, but I’m 90% sure Iain McOustra brewed it).
And of course, I met many of the fantastic people in Ontario’s craft beer scene for the first time in the cozy confines of 587 Yonge. September will truly mark the end of an era for a lot of Craft beer fans.
And if you’ve never been, you’ve got just five months to correct that oversight.
For those of you that have been, what’s your fondest Bar Volo memory?
46 thoughts on “Toronto’s Bar Volo closing after 28 years”
I was just there on Thursday for my 40th birthday. Sad to hear it’s closing; glad I got to enjoy it for possibly my last time.
First time I had Cantillon was at Barvolo. It was a bottle of Fou’ Foune and the most expensive beer I’ve ever purchased. But it was amazing and the setting had something to do with that. Will for sure need to trek out to Toronto before September.
This is horrible news. I absolutely love this place – everything from the food to beer selection to music and attention to detail, as a whole. Favourite memory is from Valentine’s Day 2015 – being seated at Table 7 with my boyfriend and leaving notes in the drawer.
Easily my first zwanze day. Such an amazing event and such a great bar. Will be sad. I hope they find a new location.
Had a very early date with Shawna, the other half of Toronto Booze Hound there, she judged me on my beer selection! Devastated to see it go!
This is sad. One of my favourites.
I went to Volo with my wife on our first trip to Toronto, and it became our regular hangout every time we’ve been back. I remember drinking a Creepy Bitch while my wife was drinking an Aphrodite. Our trips will hill have one less memorable place to visit from now on.
Best memory is going there for some of the early Cask Days. You would have been very hard pressed to have the selection of Real Ales on this side of the pond back then.
Best of luck to the Morana family in their future endeavors.
It’s sad. The only consolation is knowing that those toilets are getting demoed.
May they rest in pieces.
I’m crushed! My boyfriend and I had one of our first dates at Bar Volo. The wide beer selection, cozy atmosphere, and lighting created such a memorable sensory experience. Sad to see another Toronto icon go.
Delivering a Cask to one of the first ever cask days the night before
Ralph gave me a glass and I had all 15-20 casks to choose from all by myself
glad to see things have grown so well and they’ve had such a huge impact on the Toronto beer scene!
I lived around the corner for years and only discovered it about a year before I moved to Chicago. My favorite memory is at the end of my first visit, the bartender asking if I had a good time. I told him “yes! I love this place and I’ll definitely be back. How long have you been open?”
His reply: “Twenty-five years.”
While i like intensification, the down side is losing some of these character buildings where establishments like this can exist; there is something eternal about brick walls and a small space that is hard to replicate
Have been going here for at least 10-12 years now, though less often recently. Definitely a huge part of my beer education. Very sad to see it go, but at least the Moranas are thriving and will surely find a great new spot, hopefully not too far away.
Can we petition the city’s decision? What is the point of building new residential buildings, if ppl living or working there have nothing to enjoy!! This is just so near sighted and sad.
My boyfriend and I had our first tinder date there and are still together and now live together all because of this placeeeeeeeeeeee 🙂 😦
Very first experience was peering over at it from the Gasworks, which is no more. More recently it’s been a go-to after work hangout, with other fans of great beer. I really hope they find a new location that works.
Ralph’s first firkins on the bar.
A dear friend has had several birthdays on the patio where we sort of unintentionally completely took over the outside, mid day through to the evening, ordering their delectible snacks and forgetting how many rounds and orders went around.
One more birthday, then we can get banned for life. TO VOLO!
The annual IPA Challenge (before it moved to Brickworks) was legendary. Easily the most fun beer event I’ve ever attended.
One important piece of context that isn’t obvious until you dig below the headline: this is happening because of (yet another) real estate deal, NOT because of any weakness in the market for craft beer. In fact, the craft beer scene in Toronto has never been stronger. Volo’s departure will not leave a wasteland behind. 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have said that, but today we can be more confident. That should give us some comfort.
But even so, Volo’s demise still means something. We are losing a local institution that cannot simply be replaced with another trendy establishment shilling the trendy beer of the week. This bar is one of the reasons why the craft beer market in Toronto is as vigorous as it is today. Those of us who thirst for the good stuff will carry on, but we will mourn Volo and remember it fondly.
And it will be one HELL of a wake.
RIP Chinx. Free Max B.
My partner of four years and I had our first date at barVolo. He lived on the same street as the bar, and I lived just down the block. We met online and our first meet was over a few pints here.
Don’t worry guys, they will build a Rabba and a Wild Wing into the lobby of the new building.
I was lucky enough to discover it while the IPA challenge was still there. I just remember an awesome afternoon of IPAs, great weather and people really into beer. My wife loved it, even though she isn’t a big beer drinker. Can’t wait to see what they do next.
I thought I was prepared for it but now that it is officially announced it makes me very emotional.
The Moranas have been working their asses on successfully promoting our beers at DDC for all those years. There is no question about Volo being our Toronto headquarter since day 1. We would fly to Toronto and cabbin’ straight to the bar without waisting any time. We always felt overly welcome. This was our home. Let’s make sure to leave our marks on that very last day.
And last, Fuck condos development. This is getting rediculous.
Every visit was memorable at Volo, where I first tried some favorites like the Oak Aged Yeti or Dark Horizon. Thanks Ralph, Thomas, and Julian.
Best sunny patio on Yonge, many warm locals of the beer scene offering conversation, chats with the tireless innovative and kindly Ralph, and my first bottle of St. Sixtus Westvleteren 12 I ever drank (or had even seen.)
An important and illustrious footnote in the city’s beer boom we have enjoyed, one I imagine continuing to make history in another location.
Most expensive beer in Toronto.
More like “Most variety of beer” and with that comes many different prices for beer depending on your budget.
I am well aware of the price points of beer around city, I will not stand for careless Comments made especially on a thread such as this.
My favourite memory was meeting my future husband there! Sad to hear it’s closing. Fingers crossed they find a new location!
My favourite memory was meeting my husband there! Sad to hear it’s closing. Fingers crossed they find a new location!
Ugh, downtown Toronto continues its inexorable decline into generic blandness. Soon we’ll have a core made up of tall shiny buildings and Firkin pubs. Volo will be fine; they have the existing appeal to be successful in any neighbourhood, but for sure this is yet another loss of a unique downtown fixture
The craft beer scene in Toronto will dimmer when Bar Volo is gone and I will feel it’s loss very sharply and personally.
Best memory would be hanging out at Bar Volo like many a Friday, drinking and having a spirited conversation with a friend in the corner at the bar. When Ralph himself after watching us for several hours, buys my friend and I a beer. Now when I’m there and I see him I always make sure to at least catch his glance and give him a nod and other times exchanging a few words.
I have spent many an evening at Bar Volo over the years enjoying the beer and the food and it still feels still as though I have not been there often enough.
Sad news…… I did enjoy many good times ,at Volo….. I also got the chance to work in t6he kitchen …. Birthdays 46-52 were spent there….made friends (both staff/customers) Thank you, Ralph.
This is sad news. However, it made me reflect upon the good fortune that we both hopefully came across when Ralph and Ina Morana chose Denison’s Weissbier as one of their first ventures into the craft beer world, some time around 2003. Thanks Ralph and the Morana family for having taken the plunge and then run with the outcome.
Coming over from sweden for Toronto beerweek, just in time i guess.
Hey, I broke my husband’s favorite original bar Volo beer glass and I was wondering if you would be interested in selling yours?