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October 2021 – Loose Blues

Published October 1, 2021 in Loose Blues News, News

Silver Dollar Room rises from the ashes (twice): The Dollar is back at its original location, meticulously restored, but not yet open  to the public. A privileged few have received a guided tour of the revived bar that was demolished along with the adjoining Waverly Hotel in 2018 to make way for a new residential property. 

Now Magazine reports that before it was torn down, local councillor Joe Cressy stepped in to get the Silver Dollar designated as a heritage site – which meant that, once the new building was up, the venue had to be rebuilt exactly. Fitzrovia Real Estate took over the Waverley development from the original owners the Wynn Group and changed its plans from student residence to purpose-built rental. In doing so, they also took over the Silver Dollar plans, and they’ve rebuilt it to very precise specifications. But they’re still searching for a venue operator to take it over and run it. In the meantime, the venue is back where it’s stood since 1958 (actually one floor lower) waiting to come back to life.

It was rebuilt to exact proportions so everything is where it used to be, but the room – with interior design by DesignAgency – is much brighter and cleaner than the old bar ever was. 

There were actually five pieces that were required to be restored by the heritage bylaw: the original sign, the original bar, the oil murals on the wall and the terrazzo floor. The original stage is back in place, and the bar is original too, and Fitzrovia director of marketing Ryan Funt says that was one of the most intensive restorations. “This portion of the bar at the bottom was in disrepair, so we had it taken out and reupholstered and then reattached,” he says.

What was not restored was the grungy basement “Comfort Zone” or the back room, where show-goers could hang out and shoot a game of pool between sets. 

The Comfort Zone name lives on in the adjacent Waverly Hotel second floor co-working space (for hotel residents only). It features a fireplace, acoustic wall, meeting room and lounge area and even theatre seating and a projection space. The hotel offers lots of 21st century add-ons, including a resident app, an automatic parcel room with refrigeration, a branded BMW available for rent, a dry cleaning service, a 2,500-square-foot gym, a rooftop pool and in-house pet grooming and walking service. There’s a Cleveland Clinic virtual health centre included in rent, where residents can use cameras and diagnostic equipment to connect with a doctor on a screen. And there’s a resident beehive on the roof, with occasional jars of local honey included in the rent.

Meanwhile in Parkdale, Dave Yarmus, the former operator of the Silver Dollar before its closure in 2017, has already launched his own version of the Silver Dollar and Comfort Zone at 1371 Queen St. West and has been presenting some shows, though no blues to speak of. 

Congratulations to Eve Goldberg, a long-time friend of the blues, on being chosen for this year’s Estelle Klein Award from Folk Music Ontario. Eve was steeped in the folk scene from an early age, and became a folk musician herself with her first CD in 1998. Her instrumental “Watermelon Sorbet” was the opening theme for CBC’s Richardson’s Roundup. She supported herself by working at Borealis Records as their first office manager.

She released two more solo albums, and two recordings with Gathering Sparks, winning Folk Music Ontario’s Songs From the Heart competition. Eve is passionate about community music, teaching at colleges, and camps and helped start the Common Thread Community Chorus (Toronto) and the non-profit organization ArtsCan Circle. Her song “Streets of Burma” was used by Amnesty International Canada as part of a 2007 campaign. She has served on the board of OCFF/FMO and Local 1000 of the AFM. With Local 1000, she served as Canadian vice president for three years and president for three years.

More congratulations: The Smoke Wagon Blues Band provided a little Canadian content to the winners list at the Independent Blues Awards which included Mike Zito, Samantha Fish, Walter Trout, Larkin Poe and many others. See the complete list at https://www.makingascene.org/

Rainbow Bistro gets reprieve: Ottawa’s home of the blues, the Rainbow Bistro was set to close at the end of September, largely because the pandemic was making it impossible to make ends meet but a White Knight has appeared and it looks like they will be booking bands again in October.  The Ottawa Citizen reports that tech executive Kevin Ford has extended a lifeline to the Rainbow Bistro that will allow it to stay open, at least until the end of the year.  Ford said he woke up at 3 a.m. one night with the feeling he couldn’t stay on the sidelines and watch the live-music landmark sink. He reached out to Rainbow owner Danny Sivyer and they met to brainstorm ways to keep it open. “It has such a legacy,” Ford said. “I’m a musician and three of my sons are musicians. We’ve been to the club. I have a picture in my office from when I took my four boys there when they were young for the Sunday jam. Everybody I talk to has a Rainbow story.” 

After an emotional farewell weekend of sold-out shows at the Rainbow, Sivyer said the fresh support has him “choked up.” Although Sivyer had already given notice to the landlord, he said the landlord is on board with the restart, and even willing to cut the rent in half. Sivyer had already said emotional goodbyes to many long-time regulars who turned up for the final performance with Tony D. He says live music could be return to the stage by the first weekend in October.

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The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.