Opened in 1849 and originally named Grant’s Hotel, The Laff is one of the oldest institutions in Ottawa.
Older than the city of Ottawa, which was named in 1855
Older than the Chateau Laurier, which opened in 1912
Older than the original Parliament buildings, built in 1859 and burned in the Ottawa Fire of 1916 -- completion of new buildings in 1927
Younger than the Rideau Canal which officially opened in 1832
Over the years we’ve been known as Grant’s Hotel, The Exchange Hotel, The Bodega, The Salmon Arms, The Johnson House, and The Dominion House. In 1936, we became the Chateau Lafayette, and erected the iconic sign — now believed to be the oldest neon sign in the city. [In 2011, we had the sign refinished, unveiling the name “Bodega Hotel” underneath the old paint. Since we know the neon went in in 1936, we know that it was called the Bodega right before it changed to the Laff.]
We’ve lived many highs and lows in history — from a reputation as a brothel to rumours of John A. MacDonald frequenting the pub when visiting from Charlottetown. It’s also rumoured that a young Queen Victoria once walked through the halls. Many famed persons have graced us with their presence over the years, including Dan Aykroyd and the ever-elusive William Hawkins.
In 1937, liquor laws tightened requiring taverns to have two sides: one for men only, and one for ladies accompanied by bona fide escorts.
It wasn’t until the late 70’s that the law in Ontario was finally overturned, and the appearance of bar maids and women patrons began to fill the pubs. Our original sign is still found on the wall, although times have certainly changed. We had a rough and tumble reputation in the 1970’s when it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see bench-clearing brawls. Nowadays, a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere is observed, most of the time; things tend to get rowdy when Lucky Ron shows up! Overall, history has demonstrated that the ever-changing laws often take a turn you wouldn’t expect.
The building has been leased by the business owners since 1966, so they’ve gotten to know the place pretty well. Sharing a part in Ottawa’s history is an honour for The Laff, and has helped to shape its rich personality.