Queen West venue Nocturne to close in July

The 10-year-old goth club's owner says a major rent hike is to blame

Queen West venue Nocturne will close its doors at the end of July. The 10-year-old goth club, which regularly books techno, EBM, jungle, metal and punk, has fallen victim to a rent hike, according to owner Spencer Sutherland.

He tells NOW that “a confluence of factors” are to blame for the closure, including the minimum wage increase, higher insurance rates, but most of all, the steady increase in rent.

“The property owners, quite frankly, know the area is changing fast and many of them are not willing to give favourable leases,” he says. “In my case, time to renew my lease came up and they were only willing to renew one year at a time.”

In trying to negotiate a five-year term he said he was presented with a 250 per cent increase last year. That figure was out of the question so he agreed to a yearly renewal at 25 per cent, only to have his lease increased again this year by another 30 per cent.

Sutherland has heard similar stories time and again from other club owners as co-chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Council (TMAC). He has been one of the most outspoken and active members of the council on the city’s ongoing venue crisis, helping to push forward policies like the agent of change principle, which city council adopted last month. The rule means developers building residential towers within 120-metre radius of a venue will be responsible for incorporating noise attenuation measures into their designs, rather than putting the onus solely on pre-existing music venues to curb noise.

Though TMAC’s policy proposals are not “the magic bullet” music scene stakeholders are looking for, he believes they help.

“Agent of change is a long-term thing. That’s not going to help anyone this year or next year, but really down the road that is going to help a lot,” he says.

To address the immediate concerns of business owners, Sutherland is hoping council will next address tax and commercial rent control, though he admits change will be difficult to implement with a municipal election looming this fall. In the wake of the election, TMAC will have to be reconstituted and start work anew.

He says he’d be happy to keep his name in the hat to be co-chair even though Nocturne will be no more. “I’ve encountered a lot of experience on these issues and I know they’re not unique to me.”

Spencer says the space housing Nocturne, which has been open for 10 years, will likely become another nightclub. Plans are already underway for the venue’s final month, which will see regular events winding down. The final weekend will feature “a 24-hour party” featuring all the DJs that have performed there in the past. “Everyone from Mark Oliver to Paladin,” he says. “It’ll be a good send off.”

music@nowtoronto.com | @therewasnosound

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