Who would ever say “no” to Rihanna? Edward Pottinger, for one. The owner of The Real Jerk, a Caribbean mainstay he opened in Toronto’s East end, more than 30 years ago, in fact refused Rihanna’s request to shoot her and Drake’s “Work” video twice before finally relenting.
“They wanted it for a Friday, which is one of your busy days,” he said. “I really don’t like closing down; my customers are inconvenienced.” It was Director X, the video’s director, a regular customer, who opted for the locale, whose décor offered a setting that would require little to no alteration (Drake is also a regular, for takeout; while the kitchen was closed the morning of the shoot, Pottinger relented and made him his favorite roti). The video — seven minutes of dancehall-heaving, Carib-drinking, sexy elation — is a departure from The Real Jerk’s reality (“We’re dining first,” says Pottinger). While the restaurant features a monthly dance party, as well as weekly “Irie-oake,” but nothing like the island bacchanal seen on screen.
Pottinger has yet to see if The Real Jerk’s promimence in “Work” will translate to more long-term customers. For now, it’s been about increased interest from the press, and his regulars. “People want to know where Rihanna sat.” The Real Jerk, 42 Gerard St. E., 416-463-6055
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 19 issue of Billboard.