Halifax has seen more than its fair share of live music venue closures in recent years. The reasons for closure are complex and diverse, ranging from regulations that can best be described as “hostile to business,” to economic factors revolving around people being unable to spend all night paying $6 per drink in a depressed economy.
But there is one route to closure that seems particularly insidious to someone who spends much of their time promoting and organizing live music. The first example of this particular road to closure within the realms of my personal experience happened to a bar called Blues Corner, not long after I moved to Halifax in the late ’90s. Blues Corner had existed in the heart of Halifax’s entertainment and nightlife district on Argyle Street for almost two decades. It was a popular and loved venue, and a key part of the vibrant nightlife for which Halifax is known.
Sometime in the mid-’90s, a developer decided to capitalize on peoples’ desire to live in such a lively and exciting part of Halifax, and built a condo building, Barrington Gate. We hadn’t yet hit “peak condo” in Halifax, and the building quickly filled up. However, it wasn’t long before the noise complaints started coming in; after all, why would anyone move to the heart of Halifax’s entertainment district but to get a good night’s sleep, free of the distractions of nightlife?
It was just the first instance of a trend that many of us have since noticed, happening time and time again since: fancy condos are built in a desirable neighbourhood, then the newcomers feel that they have a right to change the neighbourhood to suit them. Whether it’s a loud bar that has been there for decades, a foghorn warning boats away from a small island in a harbour or a brewery that’s been producing brewery smells in an area for as long as it’s been an area.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a part of the world that even by its own admission favours the needs of new residents over those of small businesses in our downtown business district. Little wonder, then, that what should be the home of character-building, interesting and creative businesses that bring capital to our city and keep it here is perpetually ailing, while the sidewalk-less mega-parking lots, homogenized chain stores and bland franchises on the edge of town continue to be our premiere business districts. Steadily funneling all revenue to their shareholders and corporate head offices outside of our city, our province and our country.
What kind of person moves to an established neighbourhood and takes issue with a part of the area that predates them substantially, expecting to have it changed to fit their whims? I’m not sure if there’s a word for it, and if there is I’m not sure that it would be fit for print.