Le Coq d’Or Tavern – The Heart & Soul of Yonge Street’s Music Strip

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September 1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St
September 1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 355)

Le Coq d’Or Tavern was located at ‪333 Yonge St‬ (between Gould St and Dundas St, on the east side) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto.

Before the Famous Venue

In the late 1940s, before the tavern became one of the most renowned rock’n’roll venues in the heart of the Yonge Street strip, Le Coq d’Or was a fine dining restaurant and cocktail lounge. The building’s two upper floors were home to Olympia Bowling and Billiards.

Ronnie Hawkins & Making Rock’n’Roll History

November 13, 1963 - Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d'Or Tavern on November 13, 1963. From left to right: Robbie Robertson (guitar), Jerry Penfound (saxophone), Ronnie Hawkins (vocals), Rick Danko (bass) and Levon Helm (drums)
November 13, 1963 – Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on November 13, 1963 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC00077)

In the late 1950s and 1960s, the tavern became a wildly popular club, with the music scene exploding in Toronto. The venue was to become host to many musicians, including Ronnie Hawkins, Bo Diddley and, Goldie and the Gingerbreads.

In 1958, Arkansas-born Hawkins and his band, The Hawks, came up to Canada. They began playing venues in Ontario, eventually landing in Toronto, becoming regular performers at Le Coq d’Or Tavern. His rockabilly sound, a mix of blues, country and rock music, along with his high-energy performances, were legendary. Hawkins was known for doing backflips and having go-go dancers in golden cages on stage. He opened the Hawk’s Nest, a teen dance club above the tavern.

January 29, 1965 - Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on January 29, 1965
January 29, 1965 – Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on January 29, 1965 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01227)

Ronnie Hawkins, also known as “Rompin’ Ronnie,” “Mr Dynamo,” and “The Hawk,” mentored many Canadian musicians. Some famous Hawks included Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, who went on to perform and tour with Bob Dylan and became “The Band.” As Hawks left the band, upcoming musicians, including David Clayton-Thomas, David Foster and Lawrence Gowan, were waiting in the wings.

Le Coq d’Or, which translates to The Golden Rooster, closed in 1976. The tavern had a significant role in creating a style of music known as “Toronto Sound.”

In 2013, Ronnie Hawkins was named an Honorary Officer in the Order of Canada for his contributions to the development of Canada’s music industry and his support of charitable causes. He made Ontario his home.

On May 29, 2022, Ronnie Hawkins passed away at the age of 87.

After Le Coq d’Or Tavern

From 1991 to 2017, the building was home to HMV, and today it’s Tokyo Smoke.

At 297 Yonge St, on the second floor of Shoppers Drug Mart, is the Friar’s Music Museum. A tribute to Toronto’s music history, the free micro-museum features memorabilia from many of Toronto’s top clubs, including Le Coq d’Or, Colonial Tavern, Friar’s Tavern and the Brown Derby.

Le Coq d’Or Tavern Photos

November 13, 1963 - Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d'Or Tavern on November 13, 1963. From left to right: Robbie Robertson (guitar), Jerry Penfound (saxophone), Ronnie Hawkins (vocals), Rick Danko (bass) and Levon Helm (drums)
November 13, 1963 – Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on November 13, 1963. From left to right: Robbie Robertson (guitar), Jerry Penfound (saxophone), Ronnie Hawkins (vocals), Rick Danko (bass) and Levon Helm (drums) (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC00077)
January 29, 1965 - Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on January 29, 1965
January 29, 1965 – Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern on January 29, 1965 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01227)
November 27, 1965 – Yonge Street at night outside the Hawks' Nest club, Le Coq d'Or Tavern is visible in the background
November 27, 1965 – Yonge Street at night outside the Hawks’ Nest club, Le Coq d’Or Tavern is visible in the background (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01221)
Ad for Ronnie Hawkins at Le Coq d’Or
Ad for Ronnie Hawkins at Le Coq d’Or (photo taken July 7, 2021 at Friar’s Music Museum)
November 22, 1973 – Looking northeast from Yonge St, south of Gould St, towards the Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the restoration of the former Edison Hotel
November 22, 1973 – Looking northeast from Yonge St, south of Gould St, towards the Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the restoration of the former Edison Hotel (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 29)
January 5, 1975 – Looking northeast from Yonge St, south of Gould St, towards the Le Coq d'Or Tavern and storefronts, which includes Music World, Tottons, Hallmarks Jewellers and Jean Junction. The photo was taken after the restoration of the former Edison Hotel
January 5, 1975 – Looking northeast from Yonge St, south of Gould St, towards the Le Coq d’Or Tavern and storefronts, which includes Music World, Tottons, Hallmarks Jewellers and Jean Junction. The photo was taken after the restoration of the former Edison Hotel (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 33)
2021 - Looking southeast from Yonge St and Gould St towards Tokyo Smoke, once home to the Le Coq d'Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
2021 – Looking southeast from Yonge St and Gould St towards Tokyo Smoke, once home to the Le Coq d’Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
Between 1972 and 81 - Looking southeast along Yonge St from north of Gould St. A white arrow points out the location of Le Coq d'Or Tavern's sign
Between 1972 and 81 – Looking southeast along Yonge St from north of Gould St. A white arrow points out the location of Le Coq d’Or Tavern’s sign (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 736, Item 13)
September 1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St
September 1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 355)
September 1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern located at 333 Yonge St with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St
September 1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern located at 333 Yonge St with a Scottish Parade walking by on Yonge St just south of Gould St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 342)
March 14, 1950 - Looking north up Yonge St from Dundas St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. On the right, notice the Silver Grill, the Biltmore Theatre, Olympia Bowling & Billiards, Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel
March 14, 1950 – Looking north up Yonge St from Dundas St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. On the right, notice the Silver Grill, the Biltmore Theatre, Olympia Bowling & Billiards, Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 22, ID 49412)
March 6, 1950 - Looking north up Yonge St from Dundas St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. On the right, notice the Biltmore Theatre, Olympia Bowling & Billiards, Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel
March 6, 1950 – Looking north up Yonge St from Dundas St in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto. On the right, notice the Biltmore Theatre, Olympia Bowling & Billiards, Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 13, ID 49320)
2011 - The building at 333 Yonge St was once home to HMV and Le Coq d’Or Tavern
2011 – The building at 333 Yonge St was once home to HMV and Le Coq d’Or Tavern (Google Maps)
August 17, 1971 – Looking east from Edward St towards Le Coq d'Or Tavern, once located at 333 Yonge St. Notice Olympia Bowling & Billiards on the right and Cinema 2000 next to the tavern
August 17, 1971 – Looking east from Edward St towards Le Coq d’Or Tavern, once located at 333 Yonge St. Notice Olympia Bowling & Billiards on the right and Cinema 2000 next to the tavern (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 5, ID 6)
2022 - Tokyo Smoke, once home to Le Coq d'Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
2022 – Tokyo Smoke, once home to Le Coq d’Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
March 12, 1950 - Looking east towards the Le Coq d'Or Tavern and Olympia Bowling and Billiards at 333 Yonge St
March 12, 1950 – Looking east towards the Le Coq d’Or Tavern and Olympia Bowling and Billiards at 333 Yonge St (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 574, File 18, Item 49376)
2023 - The heritage plaque reads:

Le Coq d'Or Tavern

“The Le Coq d'Or Tavern was one of the most popular rock'n'roll venues in Toronto in the 1950s and 1960s.

Businessman George Bulucon opened the Le Coq d'Or in the late 1940s on the Yonge Street strip, a raucous entertainment district between Queen and Gerrard Streets. The tavern hosted musicians like Bo Diddley, Solomon Burke, Sam & Dave, and the Cougars, featuring Jay Douglas.
 
Goldie and the Gingerbreads, the first all-female rock band on a major American record label, also played at the Le Coq d'Or, and Montreal band the Beau-Marks recorded a live album there. 

The tavern was known for its long association with Ronnie Hawkins and his band, the Hawks. The group first played the Le Coq d'Or in 1958 and later became regular performers. After separating from Hawkins, the Hawks toured and recorded with Bob Dylan, becoming the Band in the late 1960s. 

In 1965, Ronnie Hawkins partnered with the Le Coq d’Or manager Bill Bulucon to open the Hawk's Nest, a teenage dance club above the Le Coq d'Or that featured local acts like Mandala, the Ugly Ducklings, and the Sparrows (later Steppenwolf). Pioneering soul singer, Jackie Shane, and influential English rock band, the Kinks, also played at the Hawk's Nest. 

Amid declining attendance at bars and clubs on Yonge Street, the Le Coq d'Or closed in 1976.”

Heritage Toronto 2017
The plaque is located at 333 Yonge St
2023 – The heritage plaque reads:

Le Coq D’Or Tavern

“The Le Coq d’Or Tavern was one of the most popular rock’n’roll venues in Toronto in the 1950s and 1960s.

Businessman George Bulucon opened the Le Coq d’Or in the late 1940s on the Yonge Street strip, a raucous entertainment district between Queen and Gerrard Streets. The tavern hosted musicians like Bo Diddley, Solomon Burke, Sam & Dave, and the Cougars, featuring Jay Douglas.

Goldie and the Gingerbreads, the first all-female rock band on a major American record label, also played at the Le Coq d’Or, and Montreal band the Beau-Marks recorded a live album there.

The tavern was known for its long association with Ronnie Hawkins and his band, the Hawks. The group first played the Le Coq d’Or in 1958 and later became regular performers. After separating from Hawkins, the Hawks toured and recorded with Bob Dylan, becoming the Band in the late 1960s.

In 1965, Ronnie Hawkins partnered with the Le Coq d’Or manager Bill Bulucon to open the Hawk’s Nest, a teenage dance club above the Le Coq d’Or that featured local acts like Mandala, the Ugly Ducklings, and the Sparrows (later Steppenwolf). Pioneering soul singer, Jackie Shane, and influential English rock band, the Kinks, also played at the Hawk’s Nest.

Amid declining attendance at bars and clubs on Yonge Street, the Le Coq d’Or closed in 1976.”

Heritage Toronto 2017
The plaque is located at 333 Yonge St
2021 - The Yonge Street Strip Music map by J Sherman
2021 – The Yonge Street Strip Music map by J Sherman (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
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