By now many of you have seen the story in the Windsor Star or heard via whispers and rumours about Aardvark's Blues Cafe closing down on Monday. After reading the story, I was amazed that the story didn't seem to coincide with what I'd uncovered, simply by checking a few facts on the internet alone. Now I wasn't uncovering anything after reading the article - it was all just following a series of small matters as they happened.
Several days ago, I noticed (via Ron Leary's Facebook status) that the local music scene was losing yet another live music venue. "No Aardvark tomorrow," he wrote. "Another live music venue in Windsor has closed its doors."
I immediately went to Aardvark's Facebook Group to see if perhaps the owners or someone in management had posted some sort of story, but it still seemed business as usual. Then, a day later, this message appeared on their Facebook Group under the "News" section:
Today is a very sad day.................
We had to close the doors on a great piece of history today.
Before the rumour mill starts turning, I wanted to let as many people, staff, patrons, musicians etc. know the facts. The boys are doing some restructuring and some big changes. We are hopeful that this will be a transition over the summer months and we will be able to start anew in the fall.
We will keep you posted on updates as we learn of them.
Thank you to everyone for your patronage, your laughs and some really great times. There will be more to come!
Well, that's not so bad, I thought. I mean many bars and clubs in Windsor have shut down for a month or two to renovate or upgrade or just plain overhaul the place. That must be the answer. Right?
Well, then I noticed this. Well, actually, Darren of photo404 noticed it and took a photo of it. Darren has become the eyes of Windsor's downtown (and beyond) and often uses his lense to show people truths in the face of far too mainly dressed up exaggerations, all on his website. What he found was in complete opposition to what their Facebook had said. It was, in fact, an eviction notice (pictured at left - click for a larger version).
After seeing this I returned to their Facebook page and posted a comment. Something along the lines of asking what this was all about and why they'd posted something entirely different (after saying they wanted to clear the air before the "rumour mill" started up). I did end my message positively, saying that I'd really hoped this would get cleared up and they could re-open soon. But when I went back a day later to see if they'd responded with some more news, perhaps to say it had been a misunderstanding or whatnot, instead they simply deleted my comment. Erased it.
And then the Windsor Star article came out. "Aardvark closes its doors", the headline screamed. "Smoking bylaw, economy blamed". There was no mention in the entire article of the eviction for failure to pay debts. And if you look at the amount owed, it's quite substantial. The Smoking Bylaw and economy may be partly to blame for why rent or debts weren't paid on time, but the real reason Aardvark's - according to this public notice posted on Monday - was eviction. I realize this is not exactly something people want to publicly announce, but is lying to their patrons a better solution?
I'm not writing this to call out or make Aardvark's look bad. Over the past several years, I've had some good friends work there, either as bar staff or as musicians, and I've always enjoyed Aardvark's atmosphere. But when I follow their words on their Facebook page as them telling me the truth and then have to discover (completely without intention) that it's simply more smoke and mirrors to an uglier truth, I feel like I've been slighted. The people who joined your Facebook group are obviously loyal patrons and musicians who play there - don't they deserve to know the truth? Sugar coating it that it's a temporary thing, that it's a "restructuring" of their "transition over the summer", just seems like their passing the buck.
I really do hope that things work out for Aardvark's. It's been a staple of Windsor's music scene for decades and has brought some pretty world class blues talent to its stages, not to mention been a stomping ground for many bands here in town. I just get ruffled when I hear business' (especially nearly five years after the fact) still blaming the Smoking By-Law. You had nearly a decade of warning prior to it happening warning that it was coming and you've now had nearly five more years to adapt and do something exciting to entice people in (take note that in North America, only 23% of males and 18% of females smoke - there are far more non-smokers that are never directly catered to). I mean, you may as well blame women getting the vote or "Full House" getting cancelled.
Either way, Windsor has lost another great venue and I hope this is a rallying cry rather than a death knell. Support the live music venues in this city - and remember, supporting the band is a very different thing than supporting the venue. Just because you paid cover to see a band, doesn't mean you should sit and drink water all night. The cover goes to the bands (usually) so that's all fine and dandy, but if the venue is packed and everyone is drinking water, where's the benefit to the bar owners? They may be music lovers (most of them are), but you can't pay staff and bills on good vibes. If you don't drink, buy your buddy one. Order some food. Order one of them expensive teas. Don't bring in a Tim Horton's coffee and say "No I'm good" when you're watching a band at someone's venue.
Or we may just find more notices on doors at the places that used to have showbills.