The Pilot is a restaurant and bar located just north of UTSG at 22 Cumberland Street. It has been a staple in the Toronto community for decades, playing a fundamental role in the city’s jazz music scene. While its heated rooftop patio has remained open, the restaurant has been devastated by COVID-19 closures along with most Toronto restaurants. I interviewed the manager, Hernán Bancalari, to hear what the experience has been like at The Pilot over the past few months.
“[The Pilot] has been around for a long time… 75 years ago, it was opened during World War II. It was a way of paying homage to the pilots that went to war.”
“The bar that’s downstairs, we used to be around the corner from here… so when we moved to this location, the bar was moved here by the customers themselves. It’s the actual original bar that’s downstairs.”
“A lot of restaurants in this industry, throughout the winter, they… try to barely survive. Many restaurants go into losses in the wintertime, and you’re hoping to recoup whatever you lost in the summertime, which is the busiest time of the year. [COVID-19] interrupted that.”
“We lost the first couple of months, which are just so important for us… When we finally opened, we were only allowed to do 50 per cent of the capacity of this patio… This patio holds approximately 190 people… but because of distance restrictions, we could only have maybe 60 at a time.”
“We are lucky that at least we have this patio, but it still was only half or less of the business that we usually do… For a lot of restaurants that do not have a heated patio like this one, it effectively means that you have to shut down business.”
“The best way to support us is to keep coming. To keep going out… You’re really helping out people that have invested everything they have… to be out there, to be offering a place for… people to get together and interact and see other people. The best way to support us is to keep coming out, to keep coming to our restaurant, and keep drinking and having a good time.”
Support restaurants like The Pilot by going for a physically distanced drink on the rooftop patio or ordering food through Ritual. Your support means more than you know.