It's a definite blow to the city's capability to provide quality entertainment to people.
—Sam Smith, Windsor Hotel
Although you may not have heard of it, Downtown Winnipeg lost another music venue last week.
Negative Space recently closed its doors (Robert A. Szkolnicki)
On June 30th, the lights went down at Negative Space - an underground art gallery and performance space in the Exchange District - for the last time.
It's the latest in a pattern of closures that has the city's alternative music fans wondering which of their favourite stages might be next. In the past 12 months, Winnipeg's core has seen a half-dozen music venues close their doors and shutter their windows.
"It's brutal, I don't know how else to put it," says Sam Smith, who books shows at the Windsor Hotel. "It's a definite blow to the city's capability to provide quality entertainment to people."
Beginning with the closure of the Lo Pub, the last year has not been kind to the city's live music fans. Hopes were high when the iconic Royal Albert Arms reopened in March, but after a tumultuous and controversial spring, the storied bar closed again in June.
The exterior of Pop Soda's Coffeehouse and Gallery was damaged after a vehicle crashed into the Portage Avenue eatery. (CBC)
After a drunk driver veered off Portage Avenue and collided with Pop Soda's Coffee House and Gallery last August, owners said that they hoped to reopen within a couple of months. Nearly a year later, the once-popular venue and eatery is still closed.
Add to that the closure of Negative Space and bands are finding it extremely difficult to find places to play their music.
That's left many patrons flocking to the revamped bar at the Windsor hotel, but Smith says the number of bands wanting to play far exceeds the number of venues in the city.
"I don't think there are enough spaces to accommodate everybody," says Smith, "and that's not just for Winnipeg, venues also serve as a hub for bands from outside the city that depend on networking."
But as artists struggle to find stages to showcase their music, at least one new venue is hoping to fill the hole left by the rash of closures.
Union Sound Hall's first major event features James Murphy.
Union Sound Hall, a 400-person event space in the Exchange District, is hosting its first show later this month. Part-owner Tyler Sneesby says he's definitely aware of the need for stages in the city.
"I think we're filling a void for local groups to put on their own shows," says Sneesby, "because there's no Lo Pub or Royal Albert, there's not many remaining options."
The venue will test the waters throughout the summer, hosting a number of smaller events in July and August. Their first major show will be September 5th, with a DJ set from LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy.
Sneesby says he has high hopes that the new venue will be embraced by the city's artists and their fans.
"A place when you can feel comfortable and welcome, and hear music that isn't just Top 40, it's important to a lot of people - and it's important to us." Union Sound Hall is located at 110 Market Avenue in the east Exchange District.