Reflections can't operate as cabaret on Gottingen Street
The Utility and Review Board has approved the move to the former Paragon Theatre, with one exception: Reflections will have to give up its cabaret licence and become a lounge instead.
"We can't operate with the ruling, based on the conditions that we stop music at 2 o'clock. That's basically a lounge, and we're not in the lounge business, we've never been in the lounge business," said Mike Schmid, the popular bar's owner.
The Paragon moved out of the 5,571-square foot space earlier this year. The Paragon was a lounge, but prior to its existence, the Marquee Club at that location was a cabaret.
According to the Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Division, the new restrictions would mean no more live performances at Reflections. And instead of serving alcohol until 3:30 a.m., it'd have to close by 2 a.m.
"There's two options as I see it," said Jonny Stevens, executive director of the Halifax Pop Explosion. "They stay in their current location with their current licence and operate as they have for the last 12 years until that block goes under redevelopment then they'll figure it out."
"Or, the other option is to move and to take a chance on this new business model," he said.
Stevens said he sees it as another blow to the live music scene in Halifax.
"Any time a live music venue is faced with challenges like this, which is a fundamental shift in how they do business, and have done business for the last 12 years, it has implications," Stevens said Thursday.
"It is not a good thing for live music in the city, and the industry as a whole, I believe, will the negative impact on this.
Comments to UARB
The UARB received 125 support letters of comment and emails on the move, and a 379-signature petition in support of Reflections' move.
The superintendent of the building in which Reflections currently resides also wrote a letter in support of Reflections being granted a cabaret licence, saying "We have never received a complaint from any of the neighbouring property owners, nor from the Halifax Police, nor from the Alcohol and Gaming commission."
"I'm disappointed because I thought we were good for Halifax," Schmid said Thursday.
Some people against the move complained it would bring more noise and unruly patrons to the residential area.
Schmid conducted acoustic testing at the proposed location, playing music at a 104 level decibels, four decibels higher than his current location has ever reached. He told the UARB that standing outside the building, the sound was 78 decibels, noting that passing cars on the street reached 71 to 78 decibels.
In the ruling, Schmid pointed out that any unruly late night pedestrian traffic may not be new to the area, as there are other licensed establishments on Gottingen Street such as Menz bar and the Company House.
The UARB received 16 emails/letters of comment against the move, and a 74-signature petition.
Ross Bungay, executive director of the Salvation Army Centre of Hope testified against the move, saying the shelter houses 80 people who are homeless and/or dealing with addictions. He told the board he felt Reflections would not be compatible with his centre's clientele.
In its decision, the UARB said it took into account the "growing residential character" of the neighbourhood, and accepted evidence from the public that said allowing Reflections to operate as a cabaret would allow two "waves" of patrons — the first after 2:30 a.m. when lounges around downtown Halifax close, and the second wave when Reflections would close.
It would've allowed Reflections to house live entertainment, however it would have to be at the earlier lounge time.
"We do live band music, and that's fine, and that works well because we can do that until 1 o'clock in the morning, but a lot of our entertainment is deejays, some of the best deejays in the world we've had at Reflections, and that crowd is a late crowd," said Schmid.
Schmid told CBC News he will not move under the conditions set by the UARB.
"Reflections doesn't have to move right now, Reflections will have to move, depending on how the development of the existing building goes, but that could be two or three years away. We'll look at other places," he said.