hughs room toronto

Toronto music institution Hugh's Room Live is shutting down again because of rent

A longstanding and fiercely beloved live music venue in Toronto is the latest casualty of fast-rising commercial rent prices around the city.

Hugh's Room, established in 2001, announced its impending closure by email earlier this week to its dedicated community of paying members.

"Hugh's Room Live's current lease expires as of April 1, 2020. Despite months of negotiations with our landlord, we have failed to come to agreement on terms based on fair market value," reads the email from manager Mary Stewart.

"We will be closing our doors at our current location on March 31, 2020."

This isn't the first closure for Hugh's Room, which has long been hailed as one of the best folk and blues venues in Canada.

The business at 2261 Dundas West shut down due to financial constraints in early 2017, but later re-opened as a registered charity called Hugh's Room Live thanks to the fundraising efforts of fans who together raised some $150,000.

Sadly, it would appear as though the popular venue couldn't survive for more than a few years as a non-profit — but few companies can when their landlords try to jack the rent by nearly 40 per cent.

"We want you to know that our discussions with our present landlord have been extended and excruciatingly difficult," explained Stewart in her email.

"Last week - having exhausted efforts to secure a long term arrangement - we finally received the landlord's terms for a six month extension to our current lease, a 37 per cent increase over current rent."

"Needless to say this is beyond our means to pay, particularly when we faced a 59 per cent increase in property taxes last year."

While sad to lose their longtime home, the people behind Hugh's Room Live don't intend to let it die. Rather, they're looking for a new space where the venue can continue to thrive.

"We are in discussions with developers, commercial property owners, and the city to identify a permanent home for Hugh's Room Live," explains Stewart. "In particular, we are pursuing Queen Street's vacant St. Patrick Market, and made this presentation to the Grange Community Association last December... Your support and endorsement for our proposal would be most welcome."

Stewart says that it is the venue's intention to honour as many of its show bookings and tickets as possible through the use of temporary locations. They're still working that part out but promise more details in the coming weeks.

"In the meantime, please be assured that we have every intention of continuing to thrive as a live music venue in Toronto. Our financials are strong and getting stronger," reads the message to patrons.

"This is a short term bump in the road to long term sustainability."

Lead photo by

Matt Forsythe

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