Matador Ballroom owner ready to sell after latest roadblock

Paul McCaughey, who bought the century-old venue in 2010, is ready to throw in the towel after getting word that his latest plan for the space has been rejected by the city.

Paul McCaughey says city rejected his latest plan because it believes he’s trying to open a nightclub

The Matador has been closed since 2006, but its sign still marks the historic venue's spot on Dovercourt Road, just north of College Street. Now, it's current owner says it may never reopen. (John Rieti/CBC)

The owner of the shuttered Matador Ballroom says he's almost ready to give up once and for all on his dream of reopening the historic venue in the west end after seven years of negotiations with the city,

Paul McCaughey, who bought the century-old venue at Dovercourt Road and College Street in 2010, got word on Friday that his latest plan for the space has been rejected. It's the 12th one he's submitted to the city over the last seven years.

"How can John Tory claim we are a music city … and yet on the same day reject the Matador Ballroom plan that would demonstrate leadership on this venue crisis?" he said.

McCaughey was referring to a speech given by the mayor on Friday that pledged a larger role for city hall in Toronto's music scene. 

He said he thinks this plan was rejected because the city has the impression that he's attempting to open a nightclub.

Paul McCaughey, The Matador's owner, wants the venue's main hall to host concerts, weddings and community events - but says the city believes that he wants to open a nightclub. (John Rieti/CBC)

McCaughey said his most recent plan, submitted to the city, was in fact for a "combination restaurant, artist's studio, entertainment place of assembly, and a custom workshop at the back," but that a small kitchen and a lack of dividers between the performance space and restaurant were seen as suspicious by city staff, he said.

"Basically they are saying 'we don't believe you,'" McCaughey said.

City spokesperson Bruce Hawkins told CBC Toronto that the rejection came about because the proposed use of the property is not permitted under two different zoning bylaws. 

Wednesday meeting

Now, he said everything depends on a Wednesday meeting with Coun. Ana Bailao, who has been working with him on his plans and who represents the ward where the club stands. He's also asked that that Mayor John Tory attend.

McCaughey said that if he doesn't walk out with assurances that "we're going to pull out all of the stops to see that this happens," he may sell the property.

"I have an offer on the table. I can sell this thing if I want to," he said.  

A rendering of the Matador's future is a far cry from its days as an after-hours boozecan, but McCaughey said the city remains unconvinced. (John Rieti/CBC)

Bailao is currently out of the country, but a representative from her office confirmed the date of meeting and said the city is still willing to collaborate, but city processes have to be followed.

McCaughey, though, said he no longer believes the city is genuinely interested in collaboration.

"These guys have held us up for seven years, we've been told stories, they like to say 'we take meetings', and we got zero traction from them," he said.

In a statement, the mayor's office told CBC Toronto that "local councillors have been working on this issue, and the work continues." 

The statement also said that the mayor remains committed to ensuring venues can thrive "in consultation with local neighbourhoods."