There's gotta be some evolution to my career and for a long time I was trying to figure out what that might actually be.
—Tim Hoover, DJ and owner
For Tim Hoover, the timing just felt right.
Best known in the city as DJ Co-op, Hoover is one of eight owners in Winnipeg's newest live music venue, Union Sound Hall.
After recent closures of The Royal Albert Arms and Lo Pub, places for local and touring acts to play have been on the decline in the city. Hoover says part of the motivation was to create a space that fills a void in the local scene, by offering a space with greater capacity that still offers the intimacy of a bar show.
"People are always going down to Minneapolis to see shows, we hope that we can attract some more of those medium size acts," he says.
"One show that's coming up as an example that would normally never come here is James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem who's coming to do a DJ set at the start of September during our grand opening weekend. And that was the sort of show that no promoters were looking for in Winnipeg."
Tim Hoover swaps his headphones for a tie...part of the time. (Georgia P.)
Union Sound Hall opened just over a week ago at 110 Market Avenue in the city's entertainment district.
Joining Hoover in the venture are majority owners Sam Colosimo (Brooklynn's Bistro) and Kevin Trosky (Urban Bakery) along with DJs Tyler Sneesby, Fraser Auld, Lonnie Compayre, John Lambert and Greenroom general manager Dave Davis.
Despite the number of partners involved, Hoover says disagreements have been relatively minor.
"The good thing is that we're all on the same page. We know that Winnipeg deserves a great place for performers to play. Beyond that it's just minor squabbles like, 'We should be stocking Kokanee,' 'Well Kokanee's garbage, we should be stocking more Half Pints.' And we do stock Half Pints and we're very happy about it, he jokes.
"I think the main thing was that we wanted something that was run by us. And by us I mean our generation of musicians, DJs, promoters, performers. For all these years, all of us have been putting on dance parties and shows at someone else's venues. But we really wanted to take ownership of the venue and have a place that was for us."
Ismaila Alfa and Mike Petkau Falk of Alfa played Union Sound Hall on August 8. (Greg Gallinger)
They chose the location partly because of the flexibility of the space, which features a smaller room they affectionately call "The Lo Pub Room" that holds about 200 people.
But what makes the venue unique is that when you open two garage doors, that smaller room opens up to a bigger stage and more space, which gives Union a total capacity of just over 500 people.
"It's a big room, it's hard to get 500 people out for a show all the time so we're happy to have that ability to have smaller, local, independent shows in the side," Hoover says.
"But then when it's time for a big show like the Royal Canoe CD release that's coming up, we can open up both sides and play them on our big stage."
Aside from figuring out how to use the two areas, one major challenge the owners faced was reclaiming a space that had been a nightclub with a completely different look.
"It's sort of like how Rick Rubin used to say when he was producing Beastie Boys records," Hoover explains.
Bartender Mike Requima (Greg Gallinger)
"He would just try and strip things down to make them more raw - that's what we had to do. It was a nightclub and we're not a nightclub," Hoover says.
"And it was in the 2000s, so there were these beautiful wooden pillars that were painted white with this thick enamel paint so I was in there with a sander grinding all that off to try and get that natural feel back. And there were nice big sections of open brick wall that had been painted purple. So we were in there with a sandblaster scraping it off."
For local fans who wonder what this latest venture means for the performing careers of so many local DJs, Hoover says they're not going anywhere... yet.
"All of us intend to perform as much as we did before. But, I'm not going to be DJing forever, I don't want to be. There's gotta be some evolution to my career and for a long time I was trying to figure out what that might actually be. But this could be one step in that evolution, owning the bar and having someone who's a little more relevant and not as old as me DJ in it, Hoover laughs. Royal Canoe's CD release happens August 23 at Union Sound Hall. Before that you can hear Tim Hoover chat with guest host Joff Schmidt on SCENE
On Air. The show airs every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One,
89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.