Beloved live music venue closes its doors…for now

The devil-horned D found on its door sign has become a bat signal for alternative music and cultures in the city. But by the time you read this sentence, the doors will have closed on the Distillery.

Mark Russell, part of the management and ownership team within the building, described the venue as “a pillar to our community.”

“We have a great staff and a great atmosphere. People can come here and have a really good time and know they can come back and it’ll be the same place. Nothing really changes.”According to Russell, after 10 years in the same location, the Distillery’s landlords have served the venue with an eviction noticed.  

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kitteringham

But, after 10 years in the same location, something has changed.

According to Russell, their landlords, who had been subletting it from a large corporation called Manulife, have recently served the venue with an eviction notice.

As a result, bands will have to pack in at Vern’s, Dicken’s, Lord Nelson’s and even places such as Broken City until a new location is found for The Distillery.

According to Jamie Kovalsky, lead guitarist for Russell’s band Beer Drinking Fighting Machine, “It’s gonna be tough” for musicians just starting out and looking to get on Friday and Saturday bills.

“Right now there’s only Vern’s and Dicken’s. The punk and metal scene is going to be hurt for sure until they get up and running again.”

Meanwhile, for fans of The Distillery, its closure will leave a gaping hole; memories that covered the emotional gamut.

“I met my fiancé through there. I’ve got countless shows there with BDFM. When we were doing our early stuff and doing our “Punk vs. Metal”, those are fun as well,” said Russell.

Russell also explained the place possessed its own dangers.

“I didn’t like getting stabbed. I didn’t like getting glass in the face. That was no fun,” he added referring to previous confrontations that took place at the bar.

However, it didn’t shake the love that he felt for the building.

Jim Martin, a key figure within the extreme music promotion group Calgary Beer Core, called the place a “home away from home” and has been putting on shows at The D for eight years now.

“If you were there, you felt like you were part of the family. You may be on tour or maybe you’ve played a million shows there, or maybe you’re just in for a beer one night.”

In the past few years, Russell explained that the team behind that home away from home worked hard to make the bar a desirable place to play if you’re a local musician and making a point of ensuring it wasn’t a hub for drugs or criminal behavior.

As they search for a new location, the team is looking to up The Distillery’s game by adding a kitchen to its operations. They are also planning on re-The team is looking to up The Distillery’s game by adding a kitchen to its operations. They are also planning on re-launching all the bigger shows they had booked and were forced to cancel.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Kitteringhamlaunching all the bigger shows they had booked and were forced to cancel, including Three Days of Dissent (featuring Swedish hardcore legends Raised Fist, which was scheduled to take place from Nov. 29th to Dec. 1st).

“We’re hoping we get news on the new location right away, actually,” said Russell. “Hopefully we’ll be up and running in two weeks or maybe it’ll take some months to get our stuff in a row. We don’t know, but hopefully it doesn’t take us very long.”

In the meantime, bands and patrons are going to have to scour around the city to find other options to The Distillery, even going as far as to look outside of Calgary for booking shows or seeking entertainment.

Russell is confident that the fans won’t have to wait long until something is announced on the new location. He was tight lipped on the details, but he remained steadfast in his claim the The D will be back and be better than ever.

“I love our music scene and everything it has to offer. I love our community in Calgary. You can phone bands and put on a benefit show for cancer. You can do some stuff for the kids. We’ll continue doing all that stuff and we’ll make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

bmcneil@cjournal.ca