toronto matador

The Matador to re-open as an event space in 2015

Barnboard walls are out and ballroom dancing is back in. The legendary Matador club at College and Dovercourt is going to reopen in the Fall of 2015 as an upscale event space that will eschew the building's famous rustic aesthetic in favour of a return to its more formal roots.

Tai chi instructor and current owner, Paul McCaughey, had intended to convert the former music venue into a "wellness centre" when he bought the building 2012, but changed his mind after researching the history of the building, says Theo Wolski, a brand manager working on the project.

"Throughout the process of the reconstruction of the space [McCaughey] recognized it would be an injustice to the historic value of the Matador if he didn't allow it to live on as a place to congregate, as it was always intended to be," she says.

The Matador opened opened in 1916 as the Davis Assembly Hall, a place where balls and dances were held to raise money for troops fighting in the first world war. It later became a bowling alley before it was purchased by Ann Dunn in 1964 and converted into what would become a legendary after-hours country, rock, and blues club.

Johnny Cash, Stompin' Tom Connors, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen all played there, and the latter wrote the song "Closing Time" about the venue, which closed in 2006 and looked briefly like it might be demolished for a Green P parking lot.

The new version of the Matador will likely host live music, Wolski says, but the hall will be available to rent for weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, and art shows. "The interior of the space will be a more high end version of its original design. It will have nothing to do with cowboys or the honkey-tonk past that it had."

In other words it will be more Palais Royale than Dakota Tavern.

"The interior of the space was previously covered in barnboard ... behind that we discovered a more beautiful layer of the history of the space, which was the original ballroom from 1916," Wolski says.

"What we're doing is restoring that image of the Matador. The elegance and sophistication of the space when it was originally built."

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: inventor_77/blogTO Flickr pool.


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