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Victoria Street, looking south from Dundas Street east. Visible is the rear of Pantages Theatre and The Salvation Army Working Men's Hotel. c. 1929-1930. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

Senator Restaurant, 249 Victoria Street, c. 1950s. Courtesy of The Senator Restaurant.

Interior of the Senator Restaurant, 249 Victoria Street, date unknown. Courtesy of The Senator Restaurant.

Exterior of The Senator Restaurant, 249 Victoria Street, date unknown. Courtesy of The Senator Restaurant.

  • The Senator Restaurant

    A 1940s redesign

    In its early years, the Busy Bee operated as a lunch counter, a popular restaurant format in late nineteenth and early twentieth century North America. Usually organized around an open kitchen and a long counter at which most customers sat, the format was popular in urban areas as a relatively quick and affordable place to eat outside the home. Most relied on a brisk lunch business, with menus that emphasized hot coffee, cold sodas, and freshly made burgers and sandwiches. By the 1930s, Angeloff had sold the Busy Bee Lunch to Macedonian brothers, Luke and Vangel Eftimoff, who owned and operated the Busy Bee as a successful lunch counter for over a decade. In the late 1940s, an entrepreneurial cook at the Busy Bee, George Nicolau, bought the business and in 1948 changed its name to one it would carry for the next 80 years: The Senator Restaurant.

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  • The Senator Restaurant

    A 1940s redesign

    As part of the name change, Nicolau invested in a thorough redesign of 249 Victoria Street, including the installation of the latest kitchen technology of the day: an electric refrigeration system. Nicolau hired Jouke Van Sloten, designer for the Toronto Refrigeration Fixtures Company, to design and install the system, along with a redeveloped back bar. The emblem of the Refrigeration Company can still be seen on The Senator’s fixtures today. In 1949, Nicolau also took the opportunity to apply for one of the first liquor licenses available in Toronto, converting the lunch counter into a more formal restaurant, offering customers the option to enjoy a cocktail with its new evening dinner service.

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  • The Senator Restaurant

    A Toronto legacy

    In 1964, The Senator passed to the next generation of George Nicolau’s family. His son, Nick Nicolau, took over as chef, with George’s nephew, Cecil Djambazis, working as waiter and manager. In April 1984, Robert (Bobby) Sniderman purchased The Senator Restaurant. Son of Sam Sniderman, owner of the famous record store, Sam the Record Man, Bobby Sniderman expanded the business, opening an outpost of The Senator Restaurant at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. Sniderman also spearheaded the renovation and reopening of The Senator’s second floor: today known as Top O’The Senator. During the renovation, much of the building’s original 1860s details were uncovered and preserved. Today, the second floor functions as a private events space as well as venue for live music performances.


    The Senator Restaurant

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