Standing Room Only as Canada’s smallest bar opens in Guelph

By Mark Pare

Canada's smallest bar is now open in Guelph.

Standing Room Only had a quiet soft opening last Wednesday at 60 Ontario St., mere hours after acquiring its liquor licence.

“It's a very tiny little destination, a warm environment and fun,” co-owner of the property and bar operator Doug Todd told GuelphToday of the near 144-square-foot space. “It's not rowdy by any means.”

When you walk inside, you are taken back in time to an era of speakeasies.

Up above are lights shining through hanging biltmore hats, a tribute to the hat manufacturer that called Guelph home for so many years.

Below is a floor Todd said he wanted to make “look like it was 110 years old.”

“Originally I wanted to put the menu on the floor, but the menu will always change,” he said.

But then when Toronto-based artist Melanie Gyles – who helped design the whole space – pointed out the multicultural neighbourhood, another idea came about.

“How about saying cheers in so many different languages?”

So that's what they went with. But that's not the only thing to be found looking down.

Tucked in the corner is a small glass square with neon lights, a four-square-foot space dubbed the world's smallest dance floor.

Black and white starlets from another era adorn the back of the bar.

On the other side is a brick wall, which he's going to fill with signatures of notable people who walk through the doors.

“We do have some celebrities who already know about this place, and I'm going to give them a brick (to sign when they're here),” Todd said.

From floor to ceiling and everything around, he said everything was planned out and thought out with purpose.

“Let's throw a dash of Dr. Seuss and some Willy Wonka at it, and maybe a hue of Disney,” he said. “Let's make it just (so) people want to walk in and sit. You're so consumed by everything.”

But besides the look, it is the drink-making process he's most excited for the customers to witness.

Whether it's smoking a liquor, or bringing out a torch to roast cinnamon, Todd said he's focused on creating an experience.

“Yes, we can make a cocktail fast, but it's interesting to watch what that person's drinking,” he said. “How's it being created? How's it being made?”

Not all the final pieces are in place, though.

But he does want to put more of a focus on Guelph, including bringing in craft brews and local liquor.

He said the reception has been positive throughout the community.

“The neighbourhood has been so warm and open-armed,” he said. “They're happy we're here. 

“We've been respecting the community. I don't want people outside screaming and hollering. If people start getting happy and they've enjoyed their experience, I remind them when they go out 'hey, this is a residential area, none of that yahooing outside.' And people have been very respectful of it.”

The indoor capacity allows for nine customers at a time.

Todd said it's looking like they will have to take customers by reservation, which is being set up and should be up and running in the next week or two.

Until then, he said customers can walk in from 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays to Saturdays, a schedule that may change depending on demand. It'll be closed Jan. 11.

And if someone is concerned about space available, he said he can be reached through the bar's Instagram page.

That is where he said many updates will be provided as the bar adds and tinkers with things on the fly.

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