Illustration by Roxanne Ignatius/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
That the Green Room was closed down by order of Toronto Public Health on September 22 shouldn’t have been much of a surprise for people who knew the Annex restaurant, which was as legendary for its grub as its bugs.
That the Green Room never re-opened, though—that it never could, after having its license revoked by the City in as exciting a licensing tribunal hearing as licensing tribunal hearings get—might have raised a few more eyebrows.
That’s because it’s extremely rare for the City to even try to go that far. Usually, DineSafe does the job that DineSafe is supposed to do: inspect Toronto’s restaurants, close down the few a year that pose a serious danger to customers eating there, and keep those restaurants closed until they’re safe. Usually, it doesn’t take long—a few days, most often—for the restaurants to pass a subsequent inspection and re-open. And usually, after that, restaurants stay better.
Not so with the Green Room, though, a place so dirty that a health inspector found even its license “completely covered in cockroach feces,” a place closed down more times in the past two years than any other in the city.
The Green Room’s reputation, of course, isn’t new, and for decades now, there’s been one man responsible for it: William Pham. Pham may or may not be involved in a number of other popular, cheap downtown restaurants, including another one that just opened this summer. It was Pham, the City argued, who was the “real owner” of the Green Room after its license changed hands to a twenty-four-year-old former George Brown College student who had once been a boarder in a house that Pham owned. Pham wasn’t at that hearing, though; he didn’t want to be found, let alone summoned. A shame, since we never got his side of the story. But, then, what could he say?
The Green Room was dead long before Toronto Public Health and the City showed up with its final, bright red “CLOSED” notice. University of Toronto students might mourn the loss of a favourite, and Annex-dwellers might get nostalgic for the decor, but some neighbourhood institutions deserve to die, cheap pad thai or not.