Hero: The Horseshoe Tavern, Jeff Cohen, and Craig Laskey
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Hero: The Horseshoe Tavern, Jeff Cohen, and Craig Laskey

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains of 2007––the people, places, and things that we’ve either fallen head over heels in love with or developed uncontrollable rage towards over the past twelve months. Get your dose, starting Boxing Day and running into the new year, three times a day––sunrise, noon, and sunset.
Toronto is a city full of great venues and great people helping to put on great shows. Sure, we’re obviously blessed by an insane amount of unnaturally brilliant musical talent, but all that rocking and rolling would be for naught if it weren’t for the people helping to foster this city’s many great musical communities through their work behind the scenes organizing the shows and keeping the venues alive. Guys like Eric Warner help keep indie rock weird, while Mark Pesci has played a under-appreciated role in making Hogtown a modern hardcore mecca. Jonathan Bruce, one-time founder of Wavelength, has brought the weird and the wonderful to his new gig at The Music Gallery, while Wavelength itself soldiers on as a beacon of rad times every single Sunday of the year.
At the centre of it all, though, is the Horseshoe Tavern, and the work of co-owners and talent buyers Jeff Cohen and Craig Laskey. Having celebrated sixty years at the corner of Spadina and Queen this winter, the legendary venue has remained a cultural institution since original owner Jack Starr began booking country and rockabilly in the then 87-capacity room in 1947. Having undergone a few small transformations in its time (including a brief stint in the late 70s and early 80s as a retail outlet-cum-strip club), the Horseshoe emerged as the venue we know and love today in 1982.
Jeff Cohen and Craig Laskey began booking the Horseshoe in 1995. Things have only gotten better since then. Through their tireless efforts to promote new talent, they have managed to retain the venue’s legendary status by hosting surprise gigs from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Sammy Hagar, and The Tragically Hip. Through Against The Grain, their promotion company, the pair (along with equally adventurous newcomer Ben Pearlman) have extended their reach well outside the walls of the ‘Shoe. But it is in those hallowed grounds of rock ‘n’ roll that we lucky Torontonians bare witness to the real cultural heroics.
Photo by Frank Yang.