Edmonton doesn’t necessarily have the best track record with keeping venues alive.
There’s enthusiasm, and desire within the music scene to make sure that a stage can survive in a city that is so far afield from the homes of other touring bands, but at the end of the day that can only go so far, and within the past three years staples in the city have closed their doors.
The closure of the much-beloved Wunderbar last year is somewhat symbolic of this, though there are others that have bitten the dust.
Back in 2013, for example, the Haven Social Club, located on a fairly sketchy track of Stony Plain Road, near a peep show and a greasy pizza joint, announced that it would close its folk-favouring operation.
James Leder was one of the owners of this now-defunct venue.
He and two partners, one a former Haven regular, are opening a new place on Thursday, called The Needle Vinyl Tavern.
The biggest difference between this new undertaking and Haven, for example is that, “(The Needle) isn’t an events room,” Leder said.
“Even though we will hold events, we’re an establishment.
“We’re a full-time restaurant. We’re open seven days a week.”
This is the difference between this 535-person capacity room and most other stages in the city, or, at least, one of the differences.
While most venues are pretty much only open when there’s someone on stage, the fact that holding shows is just a facet of, rather than the whole focus, affords the space additional revenue.
“With most event rooms, you show up when the event starts and leave right after the event’s over,” he said.
“You don’t need to come here to see a show; that just sometimes comes with it.”
That being said, the Needle has already managed to book some pretty big names in Canadian music, like Joel Plaskett and Shout Out Out Out Out.
Capacity is also a concern. Smaller venues, obviously, can hold fewer people and therefore less tickets to a show get sold.
“When you have an event room and your capacity is 300 or less, your income is booze, and your times for selling that booze is, pretty much, two or three hours Tuesday to Saturday. You can make something to float or get by, but you’ll never make money off of it. That’s the biggest reason venues will come and go,” he said.
“Without funding or huge community support, those venues are always going to come and go. It’s hard to sustain that. It’s a passion project, really.”
Location is equally important.
Haven wasn’t located in the best spot for a venue. It was close to MacEwan University’s Jasper Place campus, home to its music students, but for many it was just too far out of the way and not necessarily located in the safest part of town.
The Needle, though, is set to open its doors in the old CKUA building on Jasper Avenue, a centrally located space near many major transit routes, within walking distance to many hipster hold-outs like Oliver and the University Area, and a prime place to catch a cab.
“But with location comes overhead, so there’s got to be a balance. The biggest suggestion I had was ‘if only you were in a better location,’ and that’s what drove me to do this,” he said.
“Location is key. This building has so much history with music.”