Folk music and Yorkville Coffeehouses

Flipping the Coin: Operations of The Penny Farthing

John McHugh was a huge fan of jazz and at first, catered to primarily jazz acts. The Globe and Mail explained that before McHugh, finding jazz in a Yorkville Coffee house was as rare as finding instant coffee. McHugh dedicated the main stage of the venue for jazz only and the basement for amateur folk acts. This is important because it allowed many to get their start in the coffee house circuit, including Joni Mitchell. In an interview with the Toronto Star, McHugh explained that he ran his home a lot like his coffee house. He once shared a house with Ian Tyson and designated his record player that he built himself for jazz music and if Tyson wanted to hear folk music, he had to use his own. Like the Riverboat, the music was the most important thing about the Penny Farthing. The popularity of McHugh's jazz offerings is evident in the fact that he believes his crowd every night had to have been there because of the music since they had no alcoholic drinks to serve.
However, this didn’t stop the Penny Farthing from other endeavours like hosting art events like body painting and allowing hippies to get married by the pool. According to a menu from the summer of 1968, the Penny Farthing served hot and cold beverages, as well as their signature drink consisting of coffee, iced cream and whipped cream in a glass. Food options included sandwiches, pastries and a salad plate served only when "the lady boss feels constructive".
Jim McHugh sold the property in 1968 when he perceived the biggest draw to the venue as being when he played The Beatles' White Album on the turntable five days prior to its commercial release. McHugh saw this as a sign of changing times and decided to stop the Penny Farthing's wheels on a high note.

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