Nuts to Gimmicks

For three years, The Brass pub has served as something of a second home for me. When school is stressful, or when I simply want to relax and have a few drinks with friends, The Brass has always been a place where I can count on a comfortable atmosphere and a table to open up before too long. It lacks the frenzied atmosphere of Stages or the painfully image—conscious crowd of The Shot, and the beer is cheap. It's a bar, plain and simple, and I like it.

Recently, the Brass was purchased by The Hub Corporation. The Hub owns most of the bars in the busy area on Princess between Division and Barrie Streets. Before the purchase, The Brass was one of the few remaining bastions of independence in the area—just a bar, but also something of a symbol. It did consistently good business without having to resort to any sort of flashy gimmick, and back then the drinks truly were the cheapest in town.

When The Hub acquired The Brass, they assured its patrons that no drastic changes would be made. Several months have passed since the transaction, and while The Brass is still The Brass, it has hardly remained untouched. 'The cheapest jugs in town' have ballooned to $9.50—a bargain, to be sure, but a far cry from the $7.50 pitchers of yesteryear. Some renovations have been done, and a couple of things removed from the menu. For awhile, they took my favourite beer off tap, and though it eventually came back, it was sorely missed. Some might call these details trivial, and they'd be right: none of the aforementioned changes have affected the frequency of my patronage, or the general fuzzy sort of affection that I feel for the place. The change that has affected these things is harder to define or pinpoint with one or two concrete facts.

A friend of mine once remarked that it would be nice to have something to snack on while he drank. Peanuts were tossed out as a possibility, but they were soon dismissed: too much mess and, besides, the last thing you want to do is turn into Shoeless Joe's.

Lo and behold, it's not many months later, and if you walk into The Brass on any given night, you're going to step on peanut shells. That's because they're everywhere—on the floor, on the tables, in the beer. I'll admit that you can usually find a couple on my table as well. I eat the things, because they're there, and frankly, it's nice to have a snack while you drink.

It's not the peanuts themselves that are the problem; it's what they represent. The bar that was built as an alternative to club gimmickry has been given an image makeover. Stare at the posters for cheap Tuesdays now hanging all over the bar, and you'll find yourself wondering what happened to the days when every night was supposed to be cheap, and there was no need to promote one night above the rest.

The Brass is still The Brass, and it's still my bar of choice. But no matter how much the Hub Corporation tells me that they aren't going to change the bar, the fact is they've already changed it. It changed the moment they signed their name to the cheque.

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