Over the past two years, the closure of the Lo Pub and the troubles at the Royal Albert Arms left Winnipeg's music industry with a reduced capacity to stage both local and touring live shows.
In their absence, the Park Theatre in Fort Rouge and downtown's Windsor Hotel have picked up some of the slack, the latter reinventing itself as an indie-rock venue after spending decades as the home of the blues in Winnipeg.
In a sign the city's music scene is capable of absorbing even more capacity, a new 503-seat venue is slated to open in August in an East Exchange heritage building.
Union Sound Hall, which occupies the second-floor Market Avenue warehouse space last utilized by the short-lived MASH nightclub, plans to stage both live shows and DJ events.
The locally owned new venue, a modular space that can be configured for approximately 100, 400 or 500 people, is a partnership between Urban Bakery co-owner Kevin Trosky, entrepreneur Sam Colosimo, DJs Tim Hoover, Tyler Sneesby, Fraser Auld, Lonnie Compayre and John Lambert and Green Room manager Dave Davis.
For Hoover and Sneesby -- better known as veteran DJs Co-Op and Hunnicutt -- Union Sound Hall represents their first stab at venue ownership.
"We wanted to do a live venue and not a nightclub. Even though we're DJs, we're live music fans and we want to contribute to the scene," Sneesby said.
Renovations underway include exposing some of the original brick and timber interior of the second-floor space of the 115-year-old Market Building, also known to heritage buffs as the Great West Saddlery Factory.
"We had to de-nightclubify it all. All the brick was painted purple and it was really gaudy," Sneesby said.
Early bookings at the new venue include an Aug. 23 album release by Winnipeg indie-pop band Royal Canoe and a Sept. 5 appearance by James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem, said Dave Schellenberg, the new venue's talent buyer.
Agencies are looking forward to another potential place to book their artists in Winnipeg -- at a size that can compete with the Pyramid Cabaret, the Garrick Centre's Venue One and the West End Cultural Centre.
"I think it's great for the city," said Todd Jordan, vice-president of Paquin Entertainment Agency. "Given the recent demise of the Albert and Lo Pub, it'll be nice to have options in the downtown."