Toronto Venue Hugh's Room Closes Its Doors Due to Financial Troubles
A James Taylor tribute was scheduled to take place on Friday evening (January 6), but hours before the show, owner Richard Carson made the decision to not open.
"I'm basically insolvent and I'm going to be taking the next few days to figure out what my options are," Carson told the Toronto Star.
"I have not filed for bankruptcy. I would like to figure out a way to continue. I don't know if that's going to be possible, so I just need a few days," he continued. "Right now, I don't feel it's fair to go on in the dire current situation that we're in."
Speaking to CBC, Carson elaborated, "Hugh's Room has been struggling for many years... and we've always been able to get through the next weekend, but I got through the point on Friday where I thought, I don't know how I'm going to get through the next weekend,"
Back in 2014, Carson initiated a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to "stabilize operations," but was unable to kick the financial troubles. "My background was not-for-profit before I started Hugh's Room," he told CBC. "And that's what I've done: I've created a not-for-profit business."
The temporarily ceased business operations are currently affecting 35 Hugh's Room employees, though musicians are also feeling the effects of the unanticipated closure.
Al Lerman announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon that his set had been cancelled, citing an "in-house emergency."
"In-house emergency" causes Hugh's Room to cancel all shows this weekend. Consequentially, AL LERMAN BAND will not be performing. Bummer. pic.twitter.com/q1dvAPr1Kk— Al Lerman (@allermanmusic) January 6, 2017
Meanwhile, local promoter and graphic designer Michael Wrycraft, who was responsible for the James Taylor tribute dubbed "Sweet Baby James," told the Toronto Star that he was informed that the cancellation was a result of "internal issues" at the venue. That event cancellation alone cost 20 musicians their Friday night income.
Also cancelled over the weekend was an annual Gordon Lightfoot tribute. Local musician Jory Nash was slated to host the event for the 15th year running, but upon being told by Carson that the hydro had been shut off and that the club was unable to front him a 50 percent deposit up front (to fly in and accommodate performers), the event was called off.
Nevertheless, he recalls mostly fond memories of the venue.
"Lots of young bands got their start and moved onto larger venues — Serena Ryder, for example," Nash told CBC. "It was a room built for listening — it had a great sound, great sound people — the sightlines were really good for everybody. It was comfortable being on the stage. You got paid a decent wage — it was a percentage of the door. And if you filled the place, you did well."
While the venue's future remains uncertain, many other musicians and industry folk have taken to social media to share their support and memories of Hugh's Room. See a selection of those below.
Bidiniband debuted at Hugh's Room. We also had first Torn from the Pages there, RIP.— dave bidini (@hockeyesque) January 9, 2017
One of my favourite venues in Toronto, Hugh's Room, has apparently declared bankruptcy. This is sad sad news for this so-called "music city"— Richard Flohil (@richard_flohil) January 8, 2017
Sad to hear about the closing of Hugh's Room, one of Toronto's best listening— Ron Sexsmith (@RonSexsmith) January 9, 2017
venues. Here we are at last years Bacharach tribute show RS pic.twitter.com/tezQtefrbO
Sorry to read today that Hugh's Room in Toronto is closing.The Arrogant Worms did 29 shows there over the years. Amazing staff. Always fun.— Chris Patterson (@mrchrisworm) January 8, 2017