London

Call The Office closing after decades of live music

The iconic venue has been a staple for music lovers in London, Ont. since the 1980s, hosting members of such bands as Sex Pistols and the Ramones, as well as smaller acts.

Iconic music venue hosted The Tea Party, members of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, and many more

Owner says profit margins were already shirking before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

After decades of slinging beer and showcasing live music, Call The Office is closing its doors indefinitely.

The iconic venue has been a staple for music lovers in London, Ont. since the 1980s, hosting members of such acts as Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

"Profit margins were shrinking before COVID," said owner Darren Quinn, who added that the exchange rate made it difficult to book U.S. bands.

"Attendance at shows is way down. People prefer to stay home and watch Netflix," he said.

Call The Office is an iconic bar and music venue in London, Ontario. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Home to "local misfits" and lesser-known bands

"Even when times are good, the live music business is a really tough thing," said former co-owner Tony Lima.

"We've had every big band in the last thirty years, except Sloan," he said. Lima added that the venue was home to "local misfits" and lesser-known, independent bands, with live music pouring out of it on Friday and Saturday nights.

Lima said audience patterns have changed since the dive bar's heyday in the late 80s and early 90's. YouTube made it easier to check out new bands online instead of catching them passing through the city. Lima added that building an online following has replaced touring for some bands.

He'd love to see a new owner revive Call The Office, but said it's even more unlikely during the pandemic.

"We'll probably see more venues folding," he said.  "They're disappearing all over the place now."

An iconic venue in downtown London is closing. Staff at Call The Office have been slinging beer and showcasing bands for decades. Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre speaks with previous owner Tony Lima about what makes the venue so special. 7:25

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