Popular music hub perseveres after recent eviction

The sound of clanking glasses and the vibration of electrifying guitar riffs will be missed by loyal patrons of the Distillery as owners of the venue say goodbye to its 7th avenue S.W. location and set out to find a new home.

An Instagram post written by staff last month revealed that the Distillery’s owners were given an eviction notice due to discrepancies between the venue’s landlords and property owners. Nov. 30 marked the venue’s last day to vacate the building, meaning that the venue’s dimly lit, wooden stage has seen its last show.

Despite a whirlwind of legal tasks and an emotional farewell, Philly Roach, co-owner of the Distillery, said he’s looking forward to opening a smaller venue and getting back to the Distillery’s roots.

“A lot of times, opportunities come disguised as misfortune; you’ve just got to look at it from the right angle,” Roach said.

“Last week I was flabbergasted, my head was spinning, and it still is, but as The energy was high at the Distillery on Nov.19, as Victimize and five other local bands took center stage for the last time at the venue’s now retired location.

Photo by Haley Andersonof this week I’m ready to turn the page and close this chapter.”

The Distillery transitioned from a modest tavern to a “rock n’ roll ballroom” in 2009 after moving from its original 8th Street location to the now vacant space in the heart of downtown Calgary.

Roach admitted that though the immediate eviction came as a complete shock, he had anticipated moving in the spring and the experience has pushed him to pursue a new venture earlier than anticipated.

“We’re looking at getting back into the pub atmosphere,” Roach explained.

“I love what we’ve done here and I’ve soaked up everything that we’ve built, but I’m ready to scale it down a bit.”

According to Roach, the hunt for a new address is going smoothly and an official announcement regarding the Distillery’s new location will be released within the next two weeks.

Though the new setting likely won’t be able to accommodate more than 200 people like its now-retired site did, the venue will continue to provide a stage for local music and promote talent in similar ventures city-wide.

“The Distillery is all about cultivating the scene and giving someone a stage,” said Roach.

“We’ve got the connections from running this room and we’re still going to be throwing big shows, however it doesn’t necessarily have to be at my bar anymore.”

Though the venue will continue to put on smaller-scale shows, the up-root will shock those who have adapted to the Distillery’s crowded performances and unruly mosh pits.

Roach indicated that despite the dramatic shift from one caliber to the next, he’s confident the underground music scene will support his decision.

“The scene is behind us and it’s really nice to see the support system that we helped cultivate,” Roach added.

“We are really fortunate in that regard.”

Aaron Mayes, the lead vocalist of both Doberman and Breathe Knives, said that because the Distillery was able to cater to hundreds of people, musicians were pushed to put on better shows and compete with other bands, which often times isn’t a reality in a smaller space.

“It’s easy to go to a small venue like Broken City and think a hundred people will show up it’ll look packed,” Mayes said.

“But here we’ve got to try to pack it and really push our music.”

Mayes admitted that transitioning to a new location is unfortunate to say the least, but having the same staff and a similar ambience will make for a successful follow-up.

“The Distillery is an idea, not really a place,” said Mayes.

“I love this venue, but we’re going to move to a new one and start it all back over again.”

The Distillery’s head bouncer, Mike Krauss, suggested that management’s perseverance and overwhelming community support are good indicators of what’s in store for the venues next location.

“It has been a crazy couple of weeks,” Krauss noted.

“But we’re starting to get our ducks in a row and we’re prepared for whatever’s next.”

handerson@cjournal.ca