Be kind, please rewind: One Toronto tavern is offering VHS rental service

TORONTO — If 2020 was the kind of year that left you pining for simpler times, an east-end Toronto tavern is serving up movie classics along with its selection of craft beers.

In an effort to survive lockdown legislation, Farside Bar has turned into a video rental store. That’s not a typo.

The bar has created a membership-based, VHS rental service—the type of thing that went out of fashion more than a decade ago.

“There’s a little bit of healthy desperation,” explained Mike Reynolds, self-confessed videophile and co-owner of Farside Bar. “It’s been rough for restaurateurs this year, but I had 5,000 tapes sitting in the back room, so why not? It’s a resource I already had.”

Mike Reynolds, VHS

Prior to the pandemic, Farside regularly played host to movie night watch-alongs, so the transition was natural thematically. The antiquated technology presented Reynolds with a few problems, but he was able to source surplus VCR‘a from thrift stores, along with HDMI adaptors to enable the machines, many of which were manufactured in the 80’s and 90’s, to operate on today’s HDTV’s.

“Look at music, once it became streamable everyone started buying records again. We don’t have the relationship we used to with the media we’re consuming. It’s nice to turn on the TV, not be connected to the internet and reconnect with some old movies. There’s a comfort in that. We need that right now.”


Reynolds points out he has a lot of titles that aren’t available on streaming services due to licensing issues or simply because they’re older and obscure. A surprise hit has been mix tapes, recordings people took directly from their televisions, complete with commercials from the 80’s.

“It’s just the aesthetic of it, the feel. You have to physically put in the tape, play with the tracking. There’s a real kitsch factor,” he said.

“It harkens back to the Blockbuster Video days and seeing tapes on the shelf. I find there’s too many streaming services now. Say I want to watch a movie, I have to Google if it’s available in Canada, and on what streaming service. It takes half an hour and in that amount of time you could come down here, grab a few beers and a VCR with the movie.”

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