Nova Scotia

The Company House to close amid 'ongoing harassment'

The Company House in Halifax will be shutting its doors next month after the owner says they've dealt with months of harassment after a comedy podcast recorded there came under fire for offensive jokes.

After the final show on Sept. 5, the space will be rented out

EmmaLeigh Rivera, current owner of The Company House, says online harassment she and her family have faced are the reason for closing the live music venue. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The Company House in Halifax will be shutting its doors next month after the owner says they've dealt with months of harassment.

The live music venue on Gottingen Street has been known over the years for supporting the local LGBTQ community, but faced backlash in April after many people were upset by a comedy podcast recorded there.

Since taking over the space in June 2016, owner EmmaLeigh Rivera said there was ongoing concern that the space was being taken away from the LGBTQ community.

Online messages became unbearable

The final day The Company House will be open is Sept. 5. (Emma Davie/CBC)

That escalated after the performance in April, when several jokes in the show were flagged as offensive, particularly toward non-binary individuals, and activists called for a boycott of the venue.

That's also when the online messages became too much.

"It's been just kind of ongoing harassment ... People had lots of feelings about that and taking that out on us, calling us very horrific names. They knew a lot of personal information about my family's whereabouts and things like that. It's been a bit of a struggle," Rivera said. 

"We have a young daughter and so we just decided it was better to just find a new place for us."

While Rivera said she doesn't agree with many of the comments made in the podcast, the decision to allow the comedy podcast performances to continue came from difficulty around censoring artists.

"We would be expected to censor all artists after that, and then it becomes kind of a community forum, like who's allowed to play in the venue and who isn't," she said.

'Such a big deal for the music community'

Rivera said she stayed silent about the level of online harassment she was facing because she was worried the LGBTQ community as a whole would be blamed — something she's already seeing on social media since announcing the closure on Friday night.

"For us, the LGBT community has been nothing but loving and supportive and kind and we're so happy to be a part of that community," said Rivera. 

"The people who have been sending the messages and harassing us only speak for themselves, they don't speak for other people, and we wouldn't want anyone to target such a loving, kind community."

Outpouring of love

The Facebook post announcing the closure has received dozens of comments from people around Halifax wanting to share their disappointment and love for the venue.

"It's such a big deal for the music community and performers and everything. This has been kind of a staple for people, which is why we were so happy to be a part of it," said Rivera.

It's also a space important to Rivera, who chokes up when she starts talking about her favourite moments at The Company House, such as The Big Sing, a drop-in singing event.

"It was such a beautiful moment. Just strangers, singing in a room together, it was everything I could have imagined," said Rivera.

Plans to rent out the space

She said the final day the venue will be open is Sept. 5. After that, they plan to rent out the space.

"I hope whoever takes it on next plans on carrying on the space's tradition of hosting shows because the city could use it. Performers always need venues," said Rivera.