Located at 318 Richmond Street West, 23 Hop began operating in the summer of 1990 – when the term “entertainment district” was still years away from being coined. “Hop” was the ultimate example of a warehouse club: a raw space tweaked with just enough fire exits and suitable washrooms to legally qualify it as a hall. The venue was located in a pocket of the city that still housed more empty warehouses than nightclubs – an apparent hangover from a once-flourishing factory district. In the 1980s nightclub prospectors saw potential in these parts. Situated just west of the downtown core they were void of residential properties, and better yet, the rent was cheap. The property owners were delighted to see signs of life in the area and most of them jumped at the opportunity for consistent rental income.
But how did 23 Hop come to be? The idea was conceived in the winter of 1990 while founder Wesley Thuro was running his sound and lighting business. It dawned on him that he could have a place to store his equipment and make use of at the same time. After conspiring with DJ Chris Sheppard by June of 1990 the venue opened its doors as an all-ages spot with top-notch sound, lighting and laser system compliments of Thuro. The DJs included Shep, Mark Oliver, D-Nice and Deadly Hedly Jones who ensured a packed house full of rambunctious teens. Unfortunately, like most all-ages club nights in those days, the positive vibe got overruled by fights which were happening all too often at Hop. This element turned management off and prompted their decision to operate the venue as a rental hall while they concentrated on another project.
In January of 1991 the one-part genius, two-parts frugal concept called The Bovine Sex Club was was born on Queen Street West. “I’ve been to the Bovine Sex Club, now I want to go home” was the slogan used on the original laminated 23 Hop neon membership cards indicating that 23 Hop had an after-hours friendly format. In the early 90s liquor sales ended at 1am, and with a limited variety of venues to entertain Toronto clubbers, the illegal booze business was the biggest Toronto had seen since prohibition. No rocker in (or out of) their right mind could be convinced to attend an after-party unless it was a boozecan, and 318 was well equipped to operate as such. With no liquor license associated with the premises there was no risk of it being suspended or revoked in the event that alcohol service was discovered by the cops. Better yet, the likelihood of being caught was slim given the unique features of the venue summarized in this July 2, 1992 edition of Eye which discusses one of the many incarnations of the venue, The Zombie Club.
Boozecans were a part of the the venues rentals, but mostly the two-floor hall offered refuge for numerous underground scenes, warehouse jams and small concerts.
Where did the name “23 Hop” come from? You’ll discover it was partially derived from its address by answering this skill testing question: 31-8 = ? “Hop” may have been chosen because it was a three-letter verb that ensured the name would be made up of characters that had a 23 influence [23 (2) Hop (3)].
What’s the hoopla about 23? Some believe it goes beyond simple math and this is where things start to get a little weird. DJ Chris Sheppard, who reportedly lent original BSC owner Wesley Thuro half the investment for Bovine’s launch, was also involved in the 23 Hop project. Chris Sheppard (aka DJ Dogwhistle) was born on October 23, and had a fascination with the number well before Jim Carrey did in the film, “The Number 23.” That film was based on the phenomenon experienced by millions who believe important events are connected to the number 23, and I agree with them.