Nova Scotia

Award-winning Carleton Music Bar sold amid dwindling profits

The Carleton Music Bar & Grill has been a prominent and award-winning live music venue in Halifax since 2008.

Press Gang, Lot Six owner taking over the Carleton, which has been under creditor protection

Mike Campbell, now former owner of the Carleton Music Bar and Grill, says he has sold the business. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

An intimate Halifax music bar recognized nationally as among the best venues in Canada has been sold amid dwindling profits and may not continue to host live shows, says its now former owner. 

The Carleton Music Bar and Grill on Argyle Street has been under creditor protection since September and had launched a crowdfunding campaign to help.

Mike Campbell said he sold the downtown bar to Doug Reid, who owns neighbouring restaurants Lot Six Bar and Restaurant and The Press Gang Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

"I hope that the new owners do something cool with the space," Campbell said Wednesday.

"I don't know that anybody has a huge appetite to try and continue live music but at the same time, they have an open mind about it."

'A huge change'

In recent years, turnout has dwindled, which Campbell attributed to a downtown construction boom, delays in the Nova Centre construction and the closure of the Macdonald bridge while it undergoes a major maintenance project.

"Business has been declining over the past few years with all the stuff happening downtown and we were looking forward to benefiting from that project, but at the end of the day with delays and stuff, we couldn't manage to hang on," said Campbell.

"We've seen a huge change over the course of the last three, four years. Street traffic downtown is way, way off."

The Carleton Music Bar and Grill has been sold to the owner of Lot Six and the Press Gang, Mike Campbell says. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Campbell is part of a multi-business lawsuit against the municipality in an effort to recoup money they say has been lost due to ongoing construction of the convention centre, the opening of which has been yet again delayed to this time next year.

'Pay attention to the impact'

On top of that, major construction projects have boomed on the peninsula in recent years, and the municipality has had to catch up on reducing impacts on small businesses. Another live music venue on Argyle Street, the Seahorse Tavern, moved just outside the downtown core to Gottingen Street.

"Hopefully out of all of this, the city will have its collective act together when it comes to construction mitigation protocols," Campbell said. 

"If this city's going to continue to grow, they do have to pay attention to the impact that growth does have on existing businesses."

Live music

The Carleton, which opened in 2008, is respected internationally as a music venue loved by artists, said Campbell.

It earned a 2016 Canadian Music Week nomination for best small club in Canada along with more established spots in bigger cities. It also picked up a Music Nova Scotia Award last month for venue of the year.

The bar has become known for hosting live music most nights of the week; a clock on its website counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the next show. Attendees have always been encouraged to watch shows quietly and enjoy the music.

"I think the kind of stuff that we put on in here, certainly the acoustic shows, required that attention to detail," said Campbell.

The bar may continue running as normal until the end of March under Campbell's management. After that, the new owners will assess what the bar will become, he said, and if live music will be a part of that.