By Thomas Rose, Staff Writer
Low-key. Dark. Cozy. Grimy, but not in a bad way. These are just some of the terms students gave when asked to describe The Brownstone, the tiny hole-in-the-wall pub at 178 Mississaga St East, just a block up from the former Encore nightclub and boisterous Studebaker’s Beach Side Bar and Grill. “I’d call it a hipster bar,” says Greg Carbis, a first year Social Work student. “It’s got a dirty feel even though it’s clean, and it’s got a large selection of craft beers.” They may not sound like glowing reviews, but for many students and residents in the Orillia area, The Brownstone is becoming a regular spot to visit. Think Saved By the Bell’s The Max, but with repurposed wood and alcohol instead of primary colours and burgers.
“It’s one of the better bars in Orillia,” says Carbis, who transferred to Lakehead this past fall. “It’s got good live entertainment, and friendly staff who get to know you.” After the apparent death of their Tuesday Open Mic Nights this past year, The Brownstone has big doings planned for 2017 in an effort to entice even more Lakehead students to stay local instead of schlepping to Barrie for a night out. Besides making their monthly poetry night, hosted by Lakehead Orillia’s very own Drunk Poets’ Society, a regular event, the pub is hosting an event aimed at Lakehead students and other Orillia residents on Thursdays every month. Events like January’s Dinner and a Movie Night, where attendees can grab a meal for the unreasonably low price of $10 and watch favourite movies on the VCR and flat-screen TV hanging over the bar. While the new events only cover three weeks out of the month, the first will remain home to Truckstop Thursdays; a wildly successful night sponsored by Steamwhistle featuring live performances by local legends Terry Savage and the Wonky Honkees.
First year Criminology student Katherine North is on board, saying of the pub that it’s nice to spend time in “an artistic environment, that’s not just about the bar scene”. Indeed, The Brownstone often doubles as a pseudo-gallery, the walls plastered with pieces from local artists, which are usually available for purchase. Manager Mike Somerville says he tries to encourage the “public house” aspect of the bar’s design, something that comes across in the way that conversation is easy and abundant, even with strangers. “We’re not about coming down and getting hammered,” says Somerville, “it’s about having a few pints and getting to know your neighbours, you know? Discussing things that matter.”
So if you find yourself in the unlucky situation of having nothing to do on a cold Thursday next semester, consider making the short trip down towards the lake. At the end of the day, most of us really do just want to go where everybody knows our name.