Nova Scotia

Carleton Bar under creditor protection, in danger of folding

Owner Mike Campbell blames downtown construction and a dwindling appetite for live music.

Owner Mike Campbell blames downtown construction, dwindling appetite for live music

The Carleton Music Bar and Grill has about a month to find a solution after filing for creditor protection in August. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

One of Halifax's prominent live music venues is in danger of closing. The Carleton Music Bar and Grill filed for creditor protection at the end of August, after two back-to-back weekends of poor turnout.

Owner Mike Campbell blames downtown construction, the MacDonald Bridge closures, and a shrinking appetite for live music for the downturn in business. The bar opened in 2008.

"I'd say we've lost $100,000 a year over the last three to four years," said Campbell, noting the construction of the Nova Centre across the street began about three years ago, in 2013. 

Construction partially blamed

The Nova Centre, under construction in downtown Halifax, is being partially blamed for poor sales at nearby businesses. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Campbell said construction caused noise and debris on the street and eliminated parking spaces. He said crowds might return when the centre opens, but the bar might close before that happens.

"The sad part is that there's every chance we won't make it until this thing happens and then someone else will be here to reap the benefits," he said. 

Campbell, along with other businesses, have filed legal action against the Nova Centre and the municipality for a 30 per cent drop in revenue since construction began.

Money troubles

The Carleton on Argyle Street sits empty on a Wednesday night (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Campbell said the bar has about a month to come up with a plan to stay open, which includes trying to find a buyer. 

"We finally got to the point where we couldn't pay the people that needed to be paid," said Campbell.

"Nobody can continue to lose money at that rate. And you know, we've had great investments in the past, but business is business and you get to the point where you're far enough in the hole that even if things got great all of a sudden, it would still take you forever to get out of it." 

Musicians affected

Campbell said he's "not confident" the bar will remain open, and notes musicians will feel the impact. 

"This was one of the best live music cities in the country. There used to be 15 to 20 places that booked live entertainment on a regular basis," said Campbell. "And gradually that appetite has eroded." 

Campbell said there are fewer venues for musicians to play in Halifax, and without the Carleton, some won't bother touring the east coast at all. 

Mike Campbell's bar, The Carleton, opened in 2008. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)


  • A previous version of the headline said that the Carleton Bar was bankrupt. In fact, it is under creditor protection.
    Sep 29, 2016 8:03 PM AT

About the Author

Stephanie vanKampen


Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen