There’s magic in the Toronto air, and it’s coming from a certain cocktail bar on Dufferin and Dundas.
On September 5, Paris Xerx and Matthew Rocks opened The Lockhart for the first time. The Lockhart isn’t just a normal bar – throughout the room there are small references to “the boy who lived.” That’s right – The Lockhart brings to life one of the most beloved stories of its generation: Harry Potter.
But the bar wasn’t always going to be Harry Potter-inspired.
Originally, Xerx and Rocks decided to open up an apothecary-style bar. But then, inspiration struck.
Both owners are big Harry Potter fans. So, while they were building their franchise, they listened to all the audiobooks.
As they were thinking of names for their business, a friend of theirs suggested the Scottish last name “Lockhart.” And, as they progressed through the audiobooks, they remembered that Lockhart is actually a character from the popular series. To the magical duo, The Lockhart seemed like the perfect name for their bar.
“It was as close and as far to a Harry Potter reference as we could make it,” said Xerx.
They thought the name itself would be a puzzle to all their Potterhead customers – a little hint to Harry Potter fans that it was referencing Gilderoy Lockhart. It was then that they thought: why not add small hints to Harry Potter all over the bar?
Because nothing in the bar explicitly references J.K. Rowling’s books, the owners haven’t had any trouble so far with copyright permissions.
“We just made sure we stayed very clear away from the actual direct references to Harry Potter,” said Xerx. “It actually made it more fun that way, because they were so obscure and they were so out there that for people to try to guess them, you had to be a good Harry Potter fan to understand everything… And we started, kind of, coordinating the idea between something that’s more us and also related to Harry Potter.”
As they continued with their renovations, they started adding more small references all over the place – the drawing of an hourglass to reference Hermione’s time turner; the image of a snake to reference Nagini; the outline of a lightning bolt to reference Harry’s scar. On their business cards, each employee has an image of their patronus (Xerx’s is a whale). Even the drinks are references to the famous series – Big Bad Wolf is a nod to Remus Lupin; The Shacklebolt is named after Kingsley Shacklebolt; and The Gin Weasley is a play on Ginny Weasley’s name.
Fans can treat The Lockhart like a treasure hunt, searching for all the clues that only Potterheads could find. In fact, one of the drinks on the menu – Timworth Iced Tea – is such an obscure reference to the books (“Timworth” is a street close to Dobby’s shell cottage – it’s only mentioned in one sentence in the entire series) that Xerx and Rocks used to make it on the house for customers who could explain the reference.
“It kind of became its own beast after a while,” said Xerx. “The customers decided what it would be, because at the beginning we weren’t expecting it to be this Harry Potter-oriented. But they loved it and we loved it, so why not?”
To Xerx, the most rewarding part of opening The Lockhart has also been the most challenging: the bar’s popularity. The second day they opened, the head food writer for NOW Magazine stopped by and wrote an article about their Harry Potter-inspired business that night.
The very next day, the line to the bar went all the way down the block.
The owners designed the bar to only serve around 80 to 100 customers an evening. But after NOW Magazine released the article, Xerx and Rocks had nearly 400 customers in one night. Oftentimes, they were working from 5:00 p.m. until 4 a.m.
“I remember the first few months were just hectic – they were scary,” said Xerx. “But it was worth it. All of it was so worth it. We don’t regret it at all.”
The dynamic duo has big plans for The Lockhart – they want to make the front into an open window, and create a back patio with a Forbidden Forest theme.
Xerx and Rocks are also discussing the potential for a future, bigger location closer to the centre of downtown, in order to make the bar more accessible to tourists.
“I want to tell people that there’s a lot more coming,” Xerx said. “This is not it… This is only the beginning.”
Although The Lockhart is Harry Potter-inspired, Xerx emphasized that the bar is really for everyone – not just Potterheads.
“We want to be able to make your night,” said Xerx. “We’re just kind of trying to get people more into the whole magical aspect of it. Not just the Harry Potter, but magic.”
So follow the sweet smell of magic in the air to The Lockhart. You’ll taste it in the potions that you drink and see it in the writing on the wall. Whether you have always been waiting for your Hogwarts letter, or you just want to be charmed by the witchcraft, this alluring bar is the place for you.