Jimmy Good, Dan Good, Phil Dodd
Toronto might finally be taking steps to address the shrinking number of music venues. City councillors Josh Colle and John Filion are bringing forward a motion on November 9 that calls for the chief planner and general manager of economic development to come up with a strategy to preserve existing music venues and facilitate the opening of new ones.
The loss of spaces is “not just an idle threat: we’ve lost two venues since I started working on this motion,” Colle tells NOW. “I get that some of this is just the evolution of a city. These kinds of uses move from one area to another due to cost or maybe cool factor. If you look at all the condos that are approved and that are coming, there’s not a lot of room for music venues in that picture.”
Unfortunately, this idea is too late to help bars like the Hideout, which hosted its last night of music on Queen West on October 31 after the building’s new owner decided that live bands don’t fit in with their vision. Nevertheless, co-owner Dan Good is encouraged by the motion and hopes it signals a new approach from City Hall toward live music, especially since he and brother Jimmy plan on opening a new venue soon.
“It’s very interesting,” says Good after reading the motion. “Over the 10 years of us doing live music every night, we’ve had some struggles, and the recommendations sound like they’d definitely be beneficial.”
The motion asks staff to study what has worked in other cities experiencing rapid gentrification and development in areas that traditionally boasted vibrant nightlife. In the UK, London’s mayor has sounded the alarm over the rapidly dwindling number both of live music venues and dance clubs, and even Austin, Texas, the “live music capital of the world” – the city Toronto’s been trying to model itself on – is struggling to balance the concerns of new condo residents, landlords and club owners.
“There are some examples out there that we can look to,” Colle says. “A bunch of cities are only turning their minds to [this issue] now and recognizing that if we just sit back, an alarming trend will continue. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, though. It’s not like London is doing something that will suddenly fix the problem here.”
One of the motion’s recommendations is that staff investigate the possibility of both temporary pop-up venues and traditional clubs in commercial and industrial “employment lands,” an idea touched on in our recent Music City cover story.
City council has been reluctant to allow other uses in manufacturing zones, but there may be areas where nightlife could flourish thanks to reasonable rents and the lack of residential neighbours. The major problem would be getting people there.
“We’d need free buses and Ubers to get [concertgoers] out there,” says Good, laughing. “We’ve looked at different areas and whether we could draw people there, but downtown is downtown. There’s got to be a way to have room for everything. You can’t just put thousands of condos downtown and tell everyone that you can’t make a peep after 11 pm.
“That’s just not the kind of city Toronto is.”