Best of Fall 2012: Charles Khabouth expands his fashionable club empire with King West’s Storys

Best of Fall 2012: Charles Khabouth expands his fashionable club empire with King West’s Storys

You already run 11 clubs and restaurants in Toronto. What sets Storys apart?
It’s my biggest: a four-storey, 170-year-old converted warehouse that I bought with Hanif Harji, who runs Nyood. It’ll be an entertainment hub: the third and fourth floors are flexible event spaces for corporate parties, product launches, fashion events and weddings; the second floor will be a comfortable, homey bar space; and the main level will be a seafood restaurant. Toronto has a lot of great steak restaurants and bistros, but not many great seafood restaurants.

Does King West need another bar?
It’s going to be very relaxed and sophisticated, like an elegant home library. I think people who live in the King West area are really looking for a more mature bar experience. Something more intimate. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against loud, crazy bars (I own a few), but this won’t be like that.

Will there be books?
Yes—but I’m not just going to buy paperbacks by the pound and have them act like pretty-but-meaningless wallpaper. I was recently at a hotel in New York called NoMad, which has a gorgeous library bar, but the books were more there for decoration. I want the titles on my shelves to be relevant and interesting. We haven’t built a collection yet, but I’m hiring someone to spend a month researching and sourcing the right kind of material to stock the shelves. I’m also toying with the idea that customers can borrow the books they want to read for a few weeks at a time, sort of like a lending library.

You have taxidermy animals at Weslodge and elaborate mosaics at La Société. What sorts of flourishes are you planning for Storys?
It’s a beautiful structure, and we’re preserving a lot of the original architecture. In the event spaces, we’ve put down a herringbone floor that goes with the feel of the old building, and we’ve added some beautiful velvet-covered wall panels. People always remember things they can touch, like soft velvet or nice leather.

What will the opening party be like?
It’ll be small and exclusive. My last blow-out was the La Société opening, with about 1,300 people. Lately, though, I’ve been shying away from large crowds. For Weslodge, the guest list was only 250. And it was nice. You can talk to people, you know who’s who. Things don’t get out of hand.

Opens early October. 11 Duncan St., 416-340-9995

(Illustration: Adam Cruft)