After-Hours Clubs Lose Liquor License
Owner Decries 'Strong-Arm' Treatment
January 29, 2010
I t's been a rough week for the denizens of Calgary's after-hours scene now that The Warehouse and The Underground have gone underground for good -- as in six feet under.
The joint clubs on 10th Avenue S.W., which were a staple of the city's nightlife for 26 years, have closed their doors permanently after losing their Class C liquor licence last weekend.
The venue, which has also been a popular spot for live music in the past decade, has been classified as a private club since opening in 1984.
That Class C status allowed the Warehouse/Underground to operate as an after-hours establishment where people could stay and dance long after the last call for alcohol at 2 a.m.
"We had a huge niche in the afterhours (scene)," the club's owner, Chris Hewitt, said on Thursday. "We are the niche, that's it. There's nobody else."
But according to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission, the Warehouse/Underground wasn't following the guidelines set for private clubs.
"In recent years, we've received complaints that it's not a private club, that they're open to the public. (Their) events are advertised to the general public," noted Lynn Hutchings-Mah, a communications officer for the commission. "In a typical private club, if you're a member, you have to go in and show a membership card, and, if you've got guests, you have to sign them in."
Hewitt counters that the club was pushing its membership dictates, but he admits there was a few cracks in the system.
"There will be multi-thousands of people coming through the room every year, so if we happened to let a small trickle of people in who managed to get through without a membership, it's not all that stunning," he said.
Hutchings-Mah said the commission tried "to work with the licensee," encouraging the Warehouse/Underground to apply for a Class A (minors prohibited) licence -- similar to a typical nightclub.
As Hewitt saw it, though, "they were trying to strong-arm us into doing that."
The main reason the Class A status wouldn't work for the Warehouse/ Underground, said Hewitt, is that it would force the club to clear out its premises every night by 3 a.m., thus eliminating its status as an afterhours hot spot.
"There's going to be a very big hole (when it comes to) mid-size concert venues," he said.
In recent years, internationally acclaimed indie rock acts such as Caribou, Jello Biafra, the Boredoms, King Khan & The Shrines, the Hold Steady and Gaslight Anthem have performed at the Warehouse/Underground.
Before it became a live venue, the club was central to Calgary's DJ dance scene, added Hewitt, a DJ himself.
Ultimately, Hewitt feels he was mistreated by the commission.
"It's not like I was running some underground crime scene," he said. "It's not like this was a blight on Calgary and everybody will breath a sigh of relief. . . .
"Everyone just goes there to dance."
So, Calgary has lost another one of its clubbing institutions... What's everyone's feelings on this?
Personally, I find it comical that this city talks about wanting to join the rank of World Class city yet it sets last call at 2am and has a mandatory closing time. How many World Class cities even have have a last call far less a mandatory closing time? I know it is the Provincial government that regulates this stuff but it is something that could improve our cities at little cost compared to pieces of transit or cultural infrastructure.