Like the coffee houses of the eighteenth century, some hotels had their own special clienteles. For a while, the Queen's Arms was the special headquarters of the county councilors and their friends. The Albion was considered a "Tory hang-out". The Mansion House (see St. Patrick Street) at Wellington and St. Patrick, with large stables across the street, attracted the farmers, as did the Farmers' Inn, across from the blacksmith shop. Farmers were welcome at all the establishments, of course, and the hundreds of them that hauled their wagonloads of wheat into Stratford had a lot to do with the mushrooming of the hotels.
The thirsty wayfarer did not have to go to a hotel, of course, although he might have trouble avoiding one. There were also the saloons. Most popular was Ben Sleet's (see North Street) Market Refreshment Hall near the market house, where this astute colored man advertised 'oysters, fried and pickled pigs' feet, tripe and other refreshments" as well as I 'the Best of Wines and Liquors"
In 1857, the village council asked the ratepayers to vote on a bylaw to close the saloons. Although the "yes" vote was 82-2, the bylaw was defeated because it did not win, as required, a majority of the ratepayers — who numbered 280. As if this weren't enough of booze for one community, Stratford also made— and had been catering to its citizens' thirst since the earliest whisky and beer days of settlement, when W. H. McCulloch (see William Street) had added a distillery to his mills.
Later, Vivian's Brewery opened on St. Patrick Street, and continued, off and on, to operate under different proprietors and various names for more than a hundred years. Its product resembled British ales, using no artificial carbonation, and, for years, Vivian's was the only brewer of ale in Perth County.
It became the Formosa Springs and Perth Breweries, and was the last independent left in Ontario in 1949, before it was acquired by Canadian Breweries, and closed down. Much later and less famous was the Empire Brewery on Erie Street And meanwhile, somewhat lost in the array of watering holes, there existed, determinedly, in Stratford the Temperance Hotel and Boarding House, which had opened in 1857.
When the hotels began closing, Stratford acquired business blocks. The historic Albion, after 1875, was replaced by three stores — a grocery, known as the Italian Warehouse, a jewelry store (Goldsmith's Hall), and George Klein's dry goods and ready-to-wear clothing. The New Albion, on the other side of Ontario Street, one block east, had originally been the Waverley House; it too, eventually was converted into a business block.