Posted: August 23rd, 2009 by Jimmy J

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.

23 hop card

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.

zombie club 318 richmond street west

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.

23 Hop FlyerWhere 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.

Bovine Sex Club 23 Hop Card




16 Responses to “The 23 Enigma”

  1. Lord M Says:

    whistle posse in full effect… can’t wait to read more, brings me back to the days I waited in line..

    THANKS!

  2. feeney Says:

    was d.t. a few weeks ago with ants, total fuckin shame, they paved over paradise to put up a parking lot…..hey, what about a 20 year party?

  3. gOgO K'necht Says:

    I remember all of this, I was the promotor at the Bovine Sex Club and then began to promote at 23 hop.
    The main two d.js I was promoting were CHris Sheppard and Mark Oliver. WE didn’t have the term techno or rave yet we called it industrial dance.
    I was known as my nom-de-plume gOgO begonia.
    I put a lot of posters up at high schools around Toronto.
    Then I went back to travel in Africa as I had done in 1987-1989 and when I returned the next circa 90/91 raves were in full effect I remember MIke Stein at the door! I started talking about the parties I was going to on Alternaline and DR Trance also spoke about them on Alternaline a call in service to see what was going on in Toronto.

  4. eddie Says:

    I love these posts keep them coming. Brings me back to days of summer of love and catch 23

  5. Ca1v1n Says:

    Amazing… I remember the first time I was handed Zombie Club pass at Sneaky Dee’s… changed my life…

  6. ALX S Says:

    wow so many memories thanks so much i continued partying from then until 2006 when system soundbar closed what crazy ride never thought i wld live thru it lol we were the original dance crew!!love u all always fast steppn forever ALX S

  7. wishes the parties were like they used to be! Says:

    wishes parties were like they used to be :( the crowd, the music and the parties are total shit now! cz is dead!

  8. bring your pets Says:

    really?

  9. Rudy Says:

    I still have that yellow 23 Hop flyer lol :)

  10. 10 of the Very Best Classic Techno Anthems from 1991 at 23 Hop. | Says:

    [...] 23 Hop was one of the most crucial hubs for the techno scene in the early nineties. Formerly a warehouse space located at 318 Richmond Street West in Toronto, it started hosting regular techno events in 1991, making it one of the rare pioneer establishments in North America, featuring local and international djs on a regular basis. The following are some of the classic anthems you would have heard back then. [...]

  11. T-man Says:

    I remember opening night at 23, (my crowd called it 23, not the ´Hop´). Now if my memory serves me correct the space was already open before ´90 as I was a promoter of the space but as a teenager smoking lots of pot who really remembers, (those membership cards were the definition of cool). I remember dancing there with my closet mates listening to Deadly Hedly spin some wicked deep Chicago House and that crazy laser…the only lighting the place had and a fog machine, I mean, there were probably no more that 50 people a night for the first few months. I consider myself totally privileged to have been there at the birth of Toronto´s trance-techno scene, (which came a few years later). At the time it was all House, it was here where I introduced Matt C. to Chris Sheppard and the rest is history as Matt became a Toronto DJ God and went on to create one of the city´s greatest ever night clubs…Industry, (wish I was there for that, as I was already in Europe by that point). Let´s just say that 23 was raw, so damn raw and soooo way ahead of its time. All the crap that came after was just that…came after the real deal. Thanks for the article, it brings back great memories!!! (Incidently, the place closed not because of the fights, that came after…it closed because we couldn´t convince enough people to come, it was just to ahead of it´s time.) T.

  12. t-rev Says:

    I’m not sure how accurate this article is. I went to 23 hop a few times (I think it was 1991)… if you look at the picture where everyone is standing outside, it’s timestamped ’95. Also there were never any fights when i was there, and I never heard of any from anyone else who I knew that went. (also if you knew the type of people who went there… that statement is completely ridiculous). Never ever saw chris sheppard there, had no idea he had any part of it at all… anyone who was into that scene back then hated shep and thought he was lame. Also never saw hedley there either. Mark oliver was there (and I think dr no, but I may be mistaken). Never heard of zombie club, that must have opened after. (probably in ’92, when the entire scene went to shit). Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  13. jimmyj Says:

    @t-rev – I see your two cents and raise you three!

    For someone who begins their comment with “I went to hop a few times” it’s a little silly that you’re questioning this article’s accuracy.

    – I’m not sure why the photograph’s time stamp is calling anything in to question. 23 Hop photography is extremely rare – if photos from ’91 existed you can bet I would have used them. The exterior of the building changed very little throughout its run.

    – The fights I referred to were prior to the club’s rave days – when the nights were still in the hands of the owners. However, the notion that fights never took place at Hop, an afterhours/boozecan where intoxication was rampant – is udderly (cow reference) ridiculous. Yes the rave related nights were extremely tame but I’m sure there’s a handful of the club’s former bouncers who would get a chuckle from your remark.

    – Say what you will about Shep, but he was an investor and had it not been for him you may never have enjoyed a single night there. He was a resident during the club’s initial run and also DJ’d Exodus’ ’92 NYE party. If you look at the membership card above you’ll notice he’s billed as “DJ Dog Whistle” as he also appears on this bill:

    http://www.thecommunic8r.com/2009/12/exodus-nye-flyer

    He and Hedly were obviously before your time there.

    – As indicated above The Zombie club ran at Hop briefly in the summer of 1992.

    Oh and my personal experience aside – I also communicated directly with owner/founder Wesley Thuro to ensure this write-up was on point.

  14. t-rev Says:

    My comments weren’t meant as any kind of attack. I do wonder if the author actually went to 23 hop himself though (just wondering). Personally I think anyone who got into the music 92 and onward pretty much missed the boat. By that time the wrong people started going to clubs, and the music became shit. Even Derrick May “quit” music (which later became a brief retirement) because he didn’t want to be a part of what he called “toy” techno. (that’s the only reason I mentioned the photo time stamp… I didn’t even realise that 23 hop was still going on after 91).

    Yes I only did go a few times, but like I said, I knew a lot of people who kept going. I suppose I read your article wrong and thought it was soley about 23 hop’s “rave” period… which is why I thought the idea of any fighting was absurd.

    I still have a red flyer which I can scan and send to you if you wish, it’s different than the yellow one you have on this site.

  15. jimmyj Says:

    @t-rev;

    Could an entire site that is basically built around 23 Hop have been created by someone who had never been? A walk-through of the space put together by someone who had never even walked through?

    http://www.thecommunic8r.com/2009/08/318-richmond-street-west-floor-plan

    Well I guess it could, but what fun would that be? My first experience at Hop was early October of 1991 – after which I never missed a single 318 Exodus event (except for NYE 92.) The along came Sykosis…but that’s another story….

    Please forward the flyer would love to see it! Thanks.

  16. timber masterson Says:

    I recall quite a bit of this stuff, you should get someone to talk about the tazmanian ballroom and KOLA which was at a beautiful warehouse space on Richmond between Spadina and Bathurst, did my first extasy there with my girfriend Jill at the time, she was the main door girlm she worked all the warehouse parties, weather it was Ted Clarke’s or Mychol Holtzm,an’s or whoever, that’s what got me into throwing after hours parties, working at OZ on Sunday nights, bring the warehouse scene indoor for those couple summers was amazing…those were the days….

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