After several announcements about the closures of smaller live music venues in Toronto in recent years, Live Nation, in collaboration with Drake, is set to open a new signature entertainment venue in the city’s east end.
“It’s a harbinger of good things to come … it’s a significant transformation (of the site),” Coun. Brad Bradford, the chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee and the area’s representative, told Global News Tuesday afternoon.
“What you have here is a 2,500-person venue. There are acts out there that can sell out Scotiabank Arena and the Rogers Centre, but we don’t have a lot of those smaller and mid-size venues.”
Live Nation revealed renderings of the new facility, which will be called History, on Tuesday. Located on the south side of Queen Street East near Kingston Road and Eastern Avenue, the entertainment company billed it as a “versatile and intimate destination.”
According to the statement by Live Nation, there will be a convertible general admission area and reserved seating configurations for concerts, entertainment acts, community events and galas.
After being under construction for three years, it’s not clear when exactly History will open to the public but the company said construction is close to finishing.
However, according to the venue’s social media channels, acts, including 24KGoldn, 070 Shake, Chvrches and Bleachers, were scheduled to start appearing at the facility in mid-October. The company said details of additional bookings will be released later in the year.
Currently, live venues aren’t slated to reopen until the Ontario government moves the province into Step 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan, which means venues likely won’t reopen until the end of July at the earliest.
The opening of History marks a shift in the conversation surrounding the status of smaller music venues in Toronto. There have been a series of closures over the past few years, including The Mod Club Theatre, Sneaky Dee’s, the Cadillac Lounge, the Silver Dollar Room, The Hoxton, and Soybomb.
Live performance venues have been slammed over the course of the pandemic. In August, the City of Toronto moved to provide tax breaks to nearly four-dozen facilities that had to close or severely limit attendance numbers.
“The music industry and performing arts, in general, have been hit particularly hard,” Bradford said.
“We have seen some sectors like film, for example, that have been able to find a pathway to operate safely to operate throughout all of the restrictions, but we haven’t the same contingency for live music.”
For example, he said venues have been looking to hold live streaming events, but health officials haven’t allowed the venues to host those types of events.
“Everyone understands we’re in a global pandemic and follow public health advice, but this industry from both a venue perspective and an artist perspective have been hit really, really hard,” Bradford said.
He said he is bringing a motion to Toronto city council this month that calls for the creation of an “evidence-based” reopening plan for live music venues across Ontario, a plan that would include guidance on distancing, workplace safety, reviewing venue classifications under plans and further financial supports.
Bradford said he and other government officials have been trying to work with property owners to address other short-term challenges facing the local entertainment industry, including making insurance more affordable. He also said they’re looking at ways to protect cultural venue spaces and prevent development-related takeovers.