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

1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts
1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts (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

1963 - Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or, November 14, 1963
1963 – Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or, November 14, 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 back-flips and having go-go dancers in golden cages on stage. He opened the Hawk’s Nest, a teen dance club above the tavern too.

1965 - Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or, January 29, 1965
1965 – Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or, 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 of the 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 were waiting in the wings, including David Clayton-Thomas, David Foster and Lawrence Gowan.

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 the music industry in Canada 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

1963 - Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or, November 14, 1963
1963 – Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or, November 14, 1963 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC00077)
1965 - Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or, January 29, 1965
1965 – Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or, January 29, 1965 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01227)
1965 - Le Coq d’Or and the Hawk's Nest on Yonge St, December 2, 1965
1965 – Le Coq d’Or and the Hawk’s Nest on Yonge St, December 2, 1965 (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01221)
Ronnie Hawkins at Le Coq d’Or (photo taken at Friar's Music Museum)
Ronnie Hawkins at Le Coq d’Or (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
1975 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern and former Edison Hotel at Yonge & Gould Sts, southeast corner
1975 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern and former Edison Hotel at Yonge & Gould Sts, southeast corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 29)
2021 - Tokyo Smoke, once Le Coq d'Or Tavern at Yonge & Gould Sts, looking southeast
2021 – Tokyo Smoke, once Le Coq d’Or Tavern at Yonge & Gould Sts, looking southeast
1972/81 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern on the left, Yonge St from south of Gerrard St, looking south
1972/81 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern on the left, Yonge St from south of Gerrard St, looking south (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 1465, File 736, Item 13)
1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts
1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern and the Edison Hotel with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 355)
1972 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts
1972 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern with a Scottish Parade walking by, at Yonge & Gould Sts (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 492, Item 342)
1950 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern on the middle right, Yonge St from Dundas St, looking north
1950 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern on the middle right, Yonge St from Dundas St, looking north (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 22, ID 49412)
1950 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern on the middle right, Yonge St from Dundas St, looking north
1950 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern on the middle right, Yonge St from Dundas St, looking north (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 13, ID 49320)
2011 - HMV once at 333 Yonge St, north of Dundas St on east side and once home to Le Coq d’Or Tavern
2011 – HMV once at 333 Yonge St, north of Dundas St on east side and once home to Le Coq d’Or Tavern (Google Maps)
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
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)
2020 - Tokyo Smoke, once Le Coq d'Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
2020 – Tokyo Smoke, once Le Coq d’Or Tavern at 333 Yonge St
1950 - The Coq d'Or Tavern and Olympia Bowling and Billiards at 333 Yonge St, looking east
1950 – The Coq d’Or Tavern and Olympia Bowling and Billiards at 333 Yonge St, looking east (Brigdens Limited Photography & City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 18, ID 49376)
2020 - Le Coq d'Or Tavern heritage plaque at 333 Yonge St
2020 – Le Coq d’Or Tavern heritage plaque at 333 Yonge St
The Yonge Street Strip Music map (photo taken at Friar's Music Museum)
The Yonge Street Strip Music map (photo taken at Friar’s Music Museum)
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