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In a disappointing start to the new year for food enthusiasts in Toronto, the iconic and dearly-beloved Marben restaurant and its sister bar, The Cloak Bar, have announced their imminent closure at the end of January.
Marben, owned by Simon Benstead and located at 488 Wellington St. W., has been a Toronto staple for over 15 years, having served elevated farm-to-table and seasonally-driven fare to its patrons since 2007.
The announcement of its closure came through an Instagram post right before the year ended.
"This decision presented itself organically as an evolution of business and lifestyle, but more importantly it just feels like the right time," the post said, quashing any beliefs that there might be ulterior motives that fast-tracked the decision. Things come to an end. That's just the way of life.
Its sister bar, the moody and dimly-lit The Cloak Bar took over the lower level of the space in 2016 and has since led the nightlife scene, basking in the glory of being a speakeasy that offers bespoke cocktails as well as late-night eats to the visitors looking to indulge in revelry.
Both the bar and the restaurant were very appreciative of their patrons throughout the years, and it was clear that the love was mutual. There was an outpouring of love and support in the Instagram comments, showcasing how the venues became more than just places to visit for some people. It's not a stretch to assume that it became home and the staff turned into family over 16 years.
Marben, throughout its tenure, has weathered many storms and has pioneered many movements. From trailblazing the path toward farm-to-table food to championing sustainability by working with like-minded growers and suppliers, it has been at the frontlines of Toronto's food evolution since its inception.
Most notably, the restaurant completely pivoted to a no-tipping environment during the throes of the pandemic while also boosting benefits received by the staff. Although it increased menu prices, it allowed the staff to make a proper living wage. Such acts aimed at the well-being of the employees set Marben apart from its fellow restaurants.
After such an illustrious tenure spanning three different decades of this century, it is sad to see Marben and The Cloak Bar go. But they won't go without making one last bang — numerous events celebrating the histories of the restaurant and the bar are in the works, the details for which will be released soon.
As they say, don't be sad that it's ending. Be happy that it happened. That's certainly the mindset that Benstead has.
"Opening Marben and seeing it grow over the years has been the privilege of a lifetime," he said in an Instagram post. "I couldn't be more proud of all that the Marben team has accomplished and am looking forward to closing out this chapter just as we started… with delicious food, good friends, great music, and genuine hospitality. This is a happy ending."
Marben's last day of service is Jan. 29, while The Cloak Bar will be shutting its doors the night before.