Stompin’ in Sudbury on a Saturday night


Patrons crowd the bar at SRO Nightclub, Sudbury’s hottest spot on a Saturday night. (Courtesy flickr/SRO)

The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin’ stinko,
And we think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night.
The glasses they will tinkle when our eyes begin to twinkle,
And we’ll think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night.
         Stompin’ Tom Connors lyrics to “Sudbury Saturday Night

Rod Charles Deputy Editor

Stompin’ Tom Connors immortalized Sudbury in song decades ago. (Courtesy of Stompin’ Tom Connors)

Sudbury, Ontario — There are things every Canadian should have on his or her “to do” list.

Seeing the Rocky Mountains. Waving to Bonhomme at Carnival in Quebec City. Eating a lobster in PEI or enjoying a beavertail at Ottawa’s Byward Market.

Visiting Sudbury, Ontario on a Saturday night has to be on your list, too. It just has to be. And it has to be Sudbury. And yes,  it has to be on a Saturday. Why? Because Canadian music legend Stompin’ Tom Connors says so.

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Connors’ youngest years were spent living hand-to-mouth with his mother, until he was taken from her and placed in the care of social services.

According to his website, “money was a scarcity for Tom during this period in the 1950s and early 1960s; it may also have been his big break when he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario. The bartender, Gaet Lepine, agreed to give Tom a beer if he would play a few songs. These few songs turned into a 13-month contract to play at the hotel, a weekly spot on the CKGB radio station in Timmins, eight 45-RPM recordings, and the end of the beginning for Tom Connors.”

Originally released on Connors’ 1967 debut album The Northlands’ Own Tom Connors, “Sudbury Saturday Night” is just one of those songs many people know, whether they’ve been near Sudbury or not. Now 76-years-old, Connors continues to thrill audiences across Canada, has released four dozen albums, and has even appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

I begin my quest to take “Visit Sudbury on a Saturday night” off my “to do” list on a quiet Friday afternoon at Larch and Durham Street, just two blocks southeast of the market. It’s a quiet street, with only a few cars driving past and a handful of people going about their business on the sidewalk.

Sudbury’s only artisan bakery, La Boulangerie Du Village, lives at this corner. It’s a great place to have a coffee with a bounini ($3.99) for breakfast, featuring an egg omelette with ham, bacon or salsa topped with cheese and served on freshly baked focaccia. Or if you’ve slept in and missed breakfast, a big tuna croissant ($7.25).

This establishment also has a bed and breakfast on the second floor with a great view of the corner, but almost seems out of place in this part of the city. Across the street from La Boulangerie is SRO Nightclub, short for “Standing Room Only.” On the other corner is The Night Club, featuring a stage that hosts many different local and cover bands with live music every weekend.

As the sun goes down things are still pretty quiet, but by 9:30 pm it begins to pick up. Young women who are either visiting the city or students at Laurentian University are dressed to kill in tight pants and high skirts as they begin to hit the local restaurants. The boys aren’t really “Stinko” yet but a few are well on their way.

Don’t Party On an Empty Stomach

There are great places in Sudbury to get a meal before the action begins. Consider Respect Is Burning (82 Durham Street, 705-675-5777) if you love Italian food, just down the street from the main club area. The menu has many choices to help get your evening off to a good start. Try the Prosciutto and Pesto Flatbreads ($11.99) and the Penne with Mushrooms as a main course ($15.99). They also have a wide choice of pizzas.

Another choice is The Laughing Buddha (194 Elgin st, 705-673-2112). Not quite as formal as Respect but really welcoming and fun, especially with its energetic patio. Share a few drinks and some unique tasty dishes. Try the Brie LT ($8.99) or the Ernie Coombs ($8.59).

At 10:57 pm, the evening begins. There’s already a lineup at SRO, a common site on weekends. Our first stop is at Peddler’s Pub (63 Cedar Street, 705-669-1075). The website proudly proclaims “Live Entertainment Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10 pm. All you can eat wings everyday after 5 pm ($15.95), and ribs and wings ($14.95) all day long.”

Bill Cosby! Can I Have Your Autograph?

The place is more sports bar than pub, with at least 20 flat-screen TVs showing sporting events. On one of the screens, the LA Galaxy is leading the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in an MLS soccer game but nobody in the bar really seems to be watching as they share laughs and drinks with their friends.

The band Elmer Jackson and The Zone will soon be coming on, so the stage is empty at the moment. But not the dance floor, where one poor uncoordinated soul keeps the establishment shocked and amused with a Pee Wee Herman/Bill Cosby/Steve Urkel dance combination that would surely make Stompin’ Tom shake his head in disbelief. Inexplicably, not one woman in the bar wants to dance with him.

Next stop is Coyotes (28 Elgin Street, 705-671-2240). Originally an old dual auditorium theatre, the club has been transformed into a very nice place to enjoy Sudbury’s nightlife. Music is top 40 hits from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s open Saturdays from 8 pm to 2 am.

By 12:16 am, the place is hopping. There’s hardly any room to move on the dance floor. Because there is an age restriction, the crowd is older but at least you don’t have to deal with many of the problems that come with a younger, immature crowd. Nobody is fighting, and nobody is sick. Everyone is just having a nice time.

There’s no waiting line when we arrive and there’s lots of places to hang out. The club has three dance areas, including the main level, “up top,” and the cage. Or you can just enjoy a drink at the bar if you’re feeling shy.

By now, it’s getting late so I decide to go and check out more establishments in Sudbury. The long line at SRO Nightclub and Lounge  (93 Durham Street, 705-670-1361) has finally thinned out and I ask the bouncer if I can go inside and take a look.

As the name says, it is a lounge so this place is not as much about stompin’ as it is chillin’. Many people are at the bar, talking and hanging out. Domestic beer at SRO is $5.25, and they have lots of cocktail choices on their menu. The music isn’t too loud, so you can talk. A self-described New York-style lounge and nightclub, SRO also caters to the 25-to-45-year-old crowd. Open 8 pm-2 am, Monday-Saturday and 4:30 pm-2 am on Fridays, it’s ideal for a weeknight out with friends or a weekend of party mayhem. But get there early on the weekends to avoid the line-up.

Outside of the nightclub the Sudbury police are at the corner of Larch and Durham because there are suddenly several hundred people in the area. It’s the first time I think I’ve seen a police car since I arrived in Sudbury, a far cry from the downtown core of Montreal or Vancouver.

Rustic and Real

Having drinks and hanging out with friends on a dance floor is one way to enjoy Sudbury nightlife. But if you’re really into music, one of the things about Sudbury you will love are the places downtown where you can hear live music.

About a seven-minute walk from SRO is Towne House Tavern (206 Elgin Street, 705-674-6883), which has a different band performing every night. Listen to the music of a solid band until closing at 2 am while you drink have a beer ($3.75) at a table directly in front of the band, or on the patio looking out over the street.

Back at the corner of Larch and Durham, The Night Club  (52 Larch Street, 705-675-6436) is packed. It’s bigger than Towne House and is rocking. The music is loud so don’t come here if you’re hoping to enjoy a nice conversation with that special someone.

Towne House Tavern and The Night Club are rustic and real. If you’ve come here looking for cocktails or alternative music then you’re clearly in the wrong place.

That’s not to say that the other places I visited weren’t fun and exciting. But if you’re looking to get down in a way Stompin’ Tom intended, these might be the places to start.

Good to know, for the next time I choose to stomp in the king’s footsteps.

– With thanks to Sudbury Tourism and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation.

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Rod has previously worked for and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.

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