Q&A with The Fourth and Seven Bottle Shop owner Jeff Caires.Written by Erica Campbell.
The state of bars, pubs & restaurants is in a very precarious situation right now. Bar owners across the province were forced to close their establishments mid-March (rightfully so, due to Co-VID 19) and try to navigate what comes next. These small businesses are people’s passions, their livelihoods and create the vibrant, dynamic city of neighbourhoods we love so much about Toronto.
Many spots have already closed their doors for good, many are just waiting it out until the province deems it safe to re-open (what restrictions/precautions will need to be implemented looms) and some have re-opened for delivery and take-out of alcohol and food.
And then a handful of people have gotten especially creative with their spaces, pivoting them completely and taking full advantage of new liquor laws recently put in place. One of which is Jeff Caires. You may also know Jeff as owner of the recently-closed, beloved craft beer haunt Tequila Bookworm: the popular 3 -floor Queen West craft beer bar. Craft beer lovers were saddened to hear of its closing as we often popped in to explore their ever-changing craft beer & cider list, eat a great snack, and enjoy the good vibes. Jeff made the tough decision just before Co-VID 19 began to close Tequila Bookworm due to a substantial looming rent increase that basically made it impossible to continue operating. Looking back, it was really a ‘blessing in disguise’ as he was able to close up shop on his own terms, on his own schedule and then focus all his attention on scheming up how to transform his other bar, the quaint neighbourhood spot The 47 into a carefully curated alcohol retail shop.
With new laws in place allowing to-go sales of unopened alcohol with the purchase of food, Jeff has used his existing liquor license from The 47 to re-open as The Fourth & Seven Bottle Shop, a carefully curated private bottle shop carrying beers, cider and wines not available at the LCBO.
I caught up with Jeff quick to ask him what it was like to make this pivot and how it’s all been going so far. Make sure to check out the shop located at 1211 Bloor St W open from Noon-9pm Thursday-Monday.
You can catch the always-changing drinks list at http://4thand7.com and give them a follow on Instagram @4thand7
What was the process of getting the bottle shop rolling?
Well, the main step was making peace with the fact that this is gonna be a long period of uncertainty and I figured it’d be better to fully commit right away to a new concept. Didn’t really wanna roll the early 00’s sample sale vibe so decided to repurpose the place for retail.
How long did you need to pivot and plan it all?
It took about ten days. Coming up with a strategy, redesigning the space and stocking new inventory. Decided to move quickly since not many people were going this route. I’ve been thinking about this for years and this was the perfect opportunity to execute it.
What’s the vision/philosophy of the shop?
Getting people access to hard to find beers and ciders from mostly Ontario at a reasonable prices. Wine program is just to have a few bottles of interesting stuff and some solid basics. Chill vibe, kinda like if Tequila Bookworm were a bottle shop in Bloordale.
How has it been so far?
It’s been good so far. People in the neighbourhood and old Tequila Bookworm customers that came for the beer are glad to see something like this. We’re constantly building up our inventory so it gets better every week.
What challenges/roadblocks have you encountered?
Lack of delivery by breweries into Toronto and just things being closed when we need to get stuff. Otherwise it’s been pretty a pretty smooth transition. Running Tequila Bookworm was a lot of work so this seems much more chill.
Do you think this ‘new normal’ is here to stay in regards to selling alcohol?
I would think so. I imagine until they can assure restaurants can get to the way things were before it would be difficult to take this lifeline away. That being said Ontario is a weird place for liquor laws so you never know.
What’s been the most popular brewery and/or beer styles?
I’d say Revel Cider, Merit Brewing and Fairweather Brewing have been our most popular cideries/breweries. As for styles it’s been a pretty mixed bag… sours, hazy juicy IPA’s and funky ciders have been doing really well. People have also been scooping the 750ml’s of whatever, that size format has been popular. It’s changed so much week to week though so we’ll see what this week brings.