The Matador is for sale

Even after securing a zoning certificate, owner Paul McCaughey's plans to re-open the 102-year-old ballroom have faltered again


Just a month after the future of The Matador seemed like it was finally certain, plans to re-open the historic music venue and ballroom at College and Dovercourt have stalled once more, with the building slated to go on sale Thursday (October 18). 

Matador co-owner Paul McCaughey tells NOW that the project’s investor, his brother Gerry McCaughey, withdrew due to “investor fatigue,” which is “understandable after eight years,” he says. “The whole thing just took too long.”

Paul McCaughey announced on Facebook late Friday night that he is withdrawing from the Matador project and that the building is being sold. As it currently stands, he’s retired from the project but willing to see it to fruition if investors are found.   

“This thing can’t go forward without the vision, plan and consensus that I’ve put together,” he says. “It’s really going to take an investor who’s followed us, who’s inspired, who otherwise really wants to see the Matador as the Matador Ballroom reborn.”

Should anyone buy the building without McCaughey’s plans, they’d essentially have to start from scratch, as he owns the trademarks, the liquor licence and the long-sought-after zoning certificate. 

“It’s taken an extraordinary amount of effort to bring its reputation back from its ignoble days,” McCaughey says, in reference to the Matador’s years as an illegal speakeasy. “We bought a property that had a certain amount of political toxicity to it, and over the last eight years we’ve been able to get it to a very high profile in this city. We have business knocking at our door.” 

Last month NOW spoke to McCaughey after he’d finally secured the zoning certificate that meant it could be run as a public hall and restaurant. It seemed like a sign that the many obstacles the McCaugheys had faced thanks to City Hall were finally behind them. They’d even set a goal to re-open by March 2019. While that looks less attainable now, it depends on who buys it and what their intentions are. 

“If you want to buy it and turn it into a Shopper’s Drug Mart or an office space, I guess you could do that,” he wearily admits. “Or if you wanted to hold it and develop it later because it’s a linchpin for the corner, you could do that. But it wouldn’t be the Matador.”

McCaughey calls the setback “blameless,” but he says that the project should never have taken as long as it has. 

“Even with the help of Robbie Robertson making his documentary there, with [city councillor] Ana Bailão approving of the plan we made, it still took the better part of 18 months for us to get from a position where [the city] said it had to be re-zoned to, ‘Here’s your zoning certificate, you can go now,’” he says. “That’s three lifetimes in this city. If something takes six to eight months, you’re dead in the water. Eight years?”

music@nowtoronto.com | @therewasnosound

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