Calgary

Mikey's Juke Joint joins growing list of Calgary live music venues to close

Sunalta tavern will become the third live music venue in the city to shut its doors in recent weeks.

'It's real tough out there to make a go of it ... we needed to be packed to make a go of it and that's tough'

Mikey's Juke Joint in Sunalta is the third live music venue in Calgary to recently announce that it's closing, along with Nite Owl and Distortion. (Scott McKnight)

Mikey's Juke Joint is out of jam sessions.

Mike Clark, who owns the 10th Avenue S.W. bar, is shutting down the room, which was a Calgary live music hub for more than a decade.

In a Friday interview on the Calgary Eyeopener, Clark said a perfect storm of problems had conspired to cause the shutdown, including high rent, wages, taxes and soft weekend crowds.

"I'm not making the landlord out to be the bad guy," he said. "The rent was pretty high … [but] when I started it 10 years ago, fees for taxes used to be $800 a year. Now they're $3,000 a year.

"Wages have gone up, from [the] $10 an hour I was paying staff a couple years back. Now they're going to be $15 an hour.

"It's real tough out there to make a go of it. It's one of those things where we needed to be packed to make a go of it and that's tough."

Earlier this month, it was announced that the Nite Owl and Distortion, two other Calgary live music venues, were shutting down.

A little over a year ago, Wine-Ohs, another live music venue that hosted artists such as Ian Tyson and Tom Cochrane, shut its doors.

One of the most popular attractions at Mikey's Juke Joint was his Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night jam sessions. Here, owner Mike Clark jams on his saxophone. (Mike Clark)

Second location

Clark opened a second location, Mikey's on 12th, in 2017. He is migrating some of his musical regulars — and old friends — like guitarist Steve Pineo over to the Beltline venue (918 12th Ave. S.W.), where he hopes they will draw fans.

"He's been doing Monday nights, so he's going to move that show over. Basically all our weekday shows from the Juke Joint are going to move over to 12th.

"Those were our best part of the Juke Joint lately — [they drew] the biggest crowds — so we're going to move those over, and the weekends weren't very strong, but they're strong on 12th Avenue, so hopefully we can make it go [on 12th]."

Guitarist Steve Pineo was one of several Calgary musicians who performed regularly at Mikey's Juke Joint. (StevePineo.com)

Tough times for music venues

Clark says the closings are reflective of a challenging environment for the entire Calgary hospitality industry.

"It's always a tough time for music venues," he said. "And for the restaurant business right now — it's not only the music venues going down, but lots of different restaurants and bars have been shutting their doors.  

"Taxes and wages and those kind of things are the biggest problem there. I don't think it's just music venues," he said.

"The overhead in running a music venue is always pretty small," he added. "You [have] got to do it because you love it."

What will Clark miss most about his juke joint?

"The intimacy," he said.

"Over 10 years, it becomes a family. I hope a lot of people who were our regulars will come over and hang out at 12th.

"It's the people that make the place, right? We have a lot of our staff who are moving over as well."

Calgary singer-songwriter Tom Phillips will perform the final show at Mikey's Juke Joint on Sunday afternoon.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

now