Rainbow Bistro to live on through at least the end of 2021

Corporate leaders in Ottawa have rallied together to keep a local music landmark afloat until at least the end of 2021.

Local corporate leaders to keep venue open until end of 2021, and potentially longer

Kevin Ford, left, and Danny Sivyer work in two different worlds, but they share a love for live music. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

The band will play on at the Rainbow Bistro, at least until the end of the year.

Some local business leaders have thrown the venerable music hall in Ottawa's ByWard Market a lifeline to help keep live music going for the next three months.

Kevin Ford, the music-loving CEO of consulting firm the Calian Group and part-time guitarist, says he was kept up at night thinking about the Rainbow closing due to losses during the pandemic.

"The Rainbow is one of our last legacy bars," said Ford, who recalls both jamming on the stage and taking in numerous shows.

"I just think at some point as citizens, as corporate leaders, we need to take a look at this and hopefully stop these clubs closing, for the sake of both those who enjoy music and also playing music." 

The Rainbow Bistro stage was set to remain empty for good after this past weekend's goodbye, but plans have suddenly changed. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Former Senators president among group

Ford and a network of business colleagues have agreed to cover shortfalls and pay for extra costs to keep the doors open until the end of 2021. 

John Jastremski from MDS Aero Support and Cyril Leeder, the former president of the Ottawa Senators, are two other music fans who have pitched in support.

"It's not a silver bullet," said Ford, "but we didn't want to let it get to die on the vine without giving it a shot to reach out to the audience and look at options for longer term support."

Owner Danny Sivyer had already said emotional goodbyes to many long-time regulars who turned up last weekend to hear local bluesman Tony D. perform on the Rainbow stage one last time. 

Sivyer reluctantly closed the doors on Sept. 19 marking an end to 37 years in business after he lost money from repeated lockdowns and strict audience limits imposed during the pandemic. 

Sivyer says he received hundreds of messages of thanks and memories from patrons, then he was surprised to find an email from Ford offering a helping hand. 

The two had never met before, but when they sat down together they recognized they were kindred spirits dedicated to saving live music. 

The plan in place will support live music at the Rainbow until Jan. 1 and provide business advice to help the club potentially survive beyond that. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"I was overwhelmed and humbled by the offer," said Sivyer as he fought tears.

"I mean, to me, this has always just been a little hole in the wall music club and apparently to a lot of people, it's a lot more than that."

Ford says the group is offering more than a financial reprieve as they hope to provide business advice that could help the Rainbow survive the uncertainties of the pandemic, plus welcome a full house of music lovers once again.

Siyver says live music could be return to the stage by the first weekend in October.


Sandra Abma


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at


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