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THE SCOOP | Toronto’s Hugh’s Room Live Finds Its New Permanent Home

By Anya Wassenberg on July 6, 2023

Images courtesy of Hugh's Room Live
Images courtesy of Hugh’s Room Live

The team behind Hugh’s Room Live (HRL) has announced the official purchase of the organization’s new home. HRL has bought the historic church property at 296 Broadview Avenue to use not only as a performance venue, but a cultural hub.

Brian Iler, the Board Chair commented in a statement, “This new home isn’t just a game-changer, it’s a groundbreaking music sanctuary. Our vision for this space includes dedicated support for artists, performance studios, and vibrant community musical activities.”

Toronto’s roster of live music and performances venues took a definite hit over the last few years, with at least a dozen closures since 2020. That list includes the Lower Ossington Theatre, and Hugh’s Room Live, which was obliged to leave its longstanding home in the Junction neighbourhood after a new lease could not be negotiated.

Hugh’s Room Live — A Legacy

Hugh’s Room Live was founded in 2002, and named in the memory of the late musician Hugh Carson. It was housed at 2261 Dundas West for nearly two decades, and became known in the city for offering audiences high profile artists from Canada and around the world in a nightclub setting. The venue played host to Canadian legends like Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Buffy Sainte-Marie, along with international icons like Albert Lee, Judy Collins, and many others.

It fills a need for a high profile venue at the small to medium-sized level. During its years of exile from its original home in 2020, Hugh’s Room Live has staged more than 100 performances, including both online concerts during the pandemic, and live performances. The concerts were spread over several available venues in Toronto’s west end.

But, the search was always on for a new, and hopefully permanent, home. The successful effort brought together a group of more than 1,000, including donors, volunteers, and bondholders.

According to HRL, the funds include more than $550,000 in donations, $900,000 in sales of Hugh’s Bonds, and a single donor who provided $1.3 million to close the deal. The cost of the building is $4.3 million.

“I’d like to call out a few people in particular,” Iler said. “None of this would have happened without the leadership of our formidable Alternate Chair, Jim Thomas; our persistent real estate advisor, musician and Board Member, Laura Fernandez or our dedicated Treasurer, Michael Capotosto. While we still have hurdles to overcome, one thing is certain: the future of Hugh’s Room Live is secure, and we’re ready to strengthen this multipurpose cultural institution that our city and community desperately need.”

Next Steps

The building at 296 Broadview was designed by architect E.J. Lennox, a native of the city, who also designed Casa Loma, Old City Hall, and other iconic structures. The 129 year old building has good bones, as they say, and wonderful acoustics. It’s large enough for not only a concert space, but multiple areas for music making.

Next steps include preparing the space fully for live performances, which HRL says will kick off in September. The process will include consultation with neighbours, both individuals and local businesses with a goal of creating a community arts hub.

It’s a welcome note of stability for a longstanding organization, with hopes for an expanded future.


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