DeLottinville points out that leisure time in the tavern was an important means of defining a distinct working-class identity and building solidarity in the face of hardship. How so? What was the importance of such cultural activity?.
In late nineteenth century Montreal, there was a vast distinction between the city's classes. Among the gothic architecture and engineering marvels, lived the working class inhabitants; the factory workers, the unemployed, the sailors and the waterfront street gangs. Amid poverty, starvation, and unemployment, these people had little to hold onto in times of need. Joe Beef's Canteen offered a unique atmosphere to find solidarity and camaraderie in times of economic adversity.
Joe Beef's Canteen offered more than just a popular drinking setting; it offered a source of relief and support in times of need. For its patrons, it was a stronghold for working class values and protection from harsh economic times. The tavern held attraction beyond the simply food and drink. The waterfront had no public parks, and celebrations were held only occasionally by national societies and church groups; other than work and home, leisure was centred on local taverns similar to Joe Beef's.
In such an atmosphere, everyone was from similar walks of life. The rights of working-class men always triumphed, and no one was looked down upon. Within the walls of the Canteen these working-class men felt like they had some authority over the forces that dominated their lives, even if it was only temporary.
The men that frequented Joe Beef's felt a sense of belonging, and there was a mutual understanding of one another that formed into a brotherhood. A fund was set up to help pay for fines forced upon his regular customers. Most of these men depended on day labour, even a short jail term could bring disaster for the labourers" families.
For purposes of entertainment, Joe Beef's owner, Charles McKiernan employed a musician to entertain his customers, and patrons would regularly play the piano, however it was McKiernan himself who provided the bulk of entertainment.