matador toronto

Famous Toronto music venue might be gone for good

It's been over a decade since the Matador closed. At the time, it was known as Toronto's most raucous and popular after hours joint.

Owned and operated by Ann Dunn from 1964 until its closure, the country music club had been graced by musical legends like Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen (who's song "Closing Time" is said to be about the venue).

In the months following the closure, it looked like it might be razed for a parking lot. Ultimately it was spared that fate, which left the early 20th century building available for an enterprising buyer who could inject new life into it.

Cue Paul McCaughey, who along with his brother purchased the building with designs on opening a wellness centre in the space back in 2010. Those plans were ultimately ditched in favour of something more exciting: an upscale event space and music venue that would honour the venue's early roots as a ballroom.

The intention was to open in 2015, but since then it's been a very bumpy road toward getting the necessary approvals and permits from the city. Now, in the wake of a slew of venue closings, McCaughey tells the Star that he might give up on the idea altogether.

"The Matador will be the next headline if we do not get serious movement within the next two months," he told the paper. “I will sell it to a condo developer and they will have a Shoppers Drug Mart in the bottom of it, OK?”

There have been host of problems, though the venue did eventually receive a liquor license despite significant opposition last year. Still, it remains in limbo as key zoning and permit issues remain unresolved.

McCaughey recently penned an open letter to Mayor John Tory and Councillor Josh Colle in response to a press release in which they promised to address the spat of venue closings. It it, he rings some major alarm bells for the state of the city's live music scene.

"This venue crisis is not a recent issue," he explains. "In 2015, Canadian Music Week had 85 venues, in 2016 they had 50 and this year in 2017 there are only 39, representing a 54% drop in venues in just two years - that is a substantial loss of this city's soul."

The Toronto Music Advisory Council met today to discuss the challenges facing local venues. Recommendations are expected to follow.

Lead photo by

Rene Beignet

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