During the late 1950’s and 1960’s the “Playboy” phenomenon was sweeping the nation as Hugh Hefner’s magazine Playboy took society by storm and created a new sexual revolution. The magazine’s trademark “Playboy Bunnies” graced the pages of the gentleman’s magazine, and soon Playboy clubs were opening across North America, staffed by waitresses dressed up as the “bunnies” as portrayed in Hefner’s publication.
With the first Playboy Club opening in 1960, Canada only saw one Playboy Club open on its soil, and that was in Montreal which opened in 1967 for Expo67. Rumours in newspapers hinted Ottawa might also get its own Playboy Club, but this was never realized so Ottawa created it’s own version of “bunnies”…at a place called The Rib.
Located within the Riverside Hotel on what is now River Road N. in Vanier, the listed address in the 1960s was 399 Riverside Drive. The hotel boasted a “Businessman’s Buffet” at the restaurant called “The Rib” and it was also reported to be Ottawa’s very first and “best” steakhouse.
Postcards and newspaper ads touted The Rib as the place to eat and be entertained, served cocktails and steaks by “45 lovely bunnies” similar to the Playboy Club in Montreal. A discotheque and live music venue also graced the Riverside Hotel and was a popular attraction for those wishing to have, er… business “meetings”.
Straight out of the Mad Men era and what looks like a set piece from the show, The Rib’s atmosphere was that of gentleman’s entertainment and a source for the associated business trip expense account receipt. A special “Businessman’s Lunch Buffet” was offered at The Rib and it continued operation until the hotel closed. The bunnies left the building and it was subsequently demolished in 2006 to make way for the EdgeWood Care Centre.
The Riverside Hotel was a relic of different era and of a different mindset when it came to entertainment, all of which disappeared when it was removed from the Ottawa landscape.
The photos remind me of the food photos from my mother’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks from the late 60s/early 70s.
I worked there the summers of 67 and 68. I was a student at Carleton at the time. The tips paid for my university education. I was also the only bunny, at least up to that time who wore glasses. So being a glasses wearing University student made me a bit of a celebrity. We met lots of famous people and had a ball. Quite an ‘education for a farm girl from Dundas County. If any of the ‘girls’ read this I would love to get in touch. I am now a retired high school teacher who lives an hour from Ottawa.
Hi I was a student at St. Pat’s and worked there the summer of 66. I was 20 and looked 15. The owner really liked me and I only worked upstairs. My job was often to sit with the ” important” customers and chat with them because I must be clever because I was at university. My parents lived in the US at the time and when they found out what my job was, they made me quit after just four weeks. I am a retired management consultant with twelve grandchildren living in Ottawa.
HA! Amazing! What great stories you must have of your time there!
For sure! Some may never be told! Lol
Nice to meet you! I would love to meet some of the people I worked with.
I sat and chatted sometimes also with those special customers. Mr and Mrs Freiman were two of mine. They were quite old at the time. They liked to come to dinner at the steakhouse and then “check in on what the young people were doing these days” with the dancing and Bobby Brown band.
Hi Mary Jane
My mother worked at the Riverside, her name was Marjorie. I’d love to chat mor.
Hi Nancy ,
My mom worked at the riverside , Marjorie. would love to chat more if you remember her, even if you dont would still love to chat.
My name is Diana, I am in charge of the International Playboy Bunny Reunion. Please call me 847.687.8220
Loved the Rib, does anyone know what happened to one of the Bunnies called Muriel married bartender Stephen Be? Very interested in finding out.
What years? I only worked 2 summers so don’t really know much
Hi Jacqueline ,
Would love to chat more , My mom worked at the Riverside.
Loved the Rib used to go there with my friend Stephen who was a bartender at the La Fountain on Montreal Road back in the day
Whatever happened to the buffet restaurant called Poppa Joe.?
The “owner” was “Poppa Gagne” ….. I imaging it was named after him and was much later, maybe even after the Bunnies were done?
wow flash back, my mother’s sewing shop made the bunny costumes