Beloved rock venue the Zoo closing after one last Halloween blowout


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It’s fitting the last show at the Zoo in Osborne Village will be on Halloween.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/10/2015 (2649 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s fitting the last show at the Zoo in Osborne Village will be on Halloween.

The small, grungy venue has always had a creepy sort of appeal to it, only helped by mythologies largely composed of unrepeatable anecdotes depicting wild nights gone by.

While the Halloween celebration this year will surely continue the tradition of riotous good times, it will also be tinged with a bit of sadness, as many local patrons prepare to say goodbye to a venue that has played host to thousands of rock, metal and indie shows for more than three decades.

Dreadnaut à la Clockwork Orange

The sale of the Osborne Village Motor Inn was announced in mid-August, and since then, many have speculated about the fate of the building and businesses inside — including the Zoo, Ozzy’s and the Osborne Village Café.

David Green and his family have owned the hotel for 35 years, and while he won’t make any explicit details known, he notes the new owners were carefully chosen and that they have some “special plans” for the Zoo.

“We turned down a lot of offers from some people we didn’t think were the right fit to take over the Zoo, and these people have some special plans for it,” Green says. “It may not be the rock bar that we’re all used to, but it’ll be something special.”

While the venue and hotel are beloved characters in the Osborne Village landscape, Green recognizes the time has come for the space to find a new voice.

“The Zoo of years ago isn’t the Zoo it is today. As times change, things change, circumstances change, people’s demands change and the Zoo that we all knew and loved isn’t that way anymore. It’s time to resurrect something new and positive,” he says.

But, before the final nail goes in the coffin, local nu-metal band Dreadnaut will host the 10th anniversary of its Night of the Living Dread event on Oct. 31, giving the venue a proper send-off. The foursome is an apt choice to be the final band to take the Zoo stage, as the group credits the venue with helping them get their start when band members moved to Winnipeg from Thompson (via Saskatoon) 13 years ago.

“This is our home and we’ve got a lot of memories here,” says singer Steven Crooks, noting the band — rounded out by Robin Kimball on guitar, Chris Miller on drums and Mike Wagner on bass — played a show there once every month while they were first finding their feet in the Winnipeg music scene.

The Zoo remained a presence in Dreadnaut’s career through both highs and lows; they released two full-length albums — 2005’s A New Design and 2009’s A Taste of What’s to Come — shared the Zoo stage with high-profile acts such as the Trews and SNFU and survived the bankruptcy of their distribution company, which left them in debt and unmotivated to continue working on music.

Crooks says the only thing that kept them together at that point was their annual Halloween show.

“For the last four years, we’ve only done maybe six or seven shows, and most of those were the Halloween show. This is Year 10 for us, and if it wasn’t for this Halloween show, we probably wouldn’t still be together,” says Crooks.

Dreadnaut is currently working on new music and Crooks says they intend to continue with Night of the Living Dread next year in a different venue.

For Crooks, the magic of the Zoo is not something that can be easily duplicated. Though venues such as the Pyramid Cabaret, the Windsor Hotel and the Garrick Centre are obvious choices to pick up metal and rock acts coming through town, the Zoo’s atmosphere and family vibe created by Green — whom Crooks has affectionately dubbed “Uncle Dave’” — is irreplaceable.

“People could come here, get loose and just let themselves go,” he says. “There’s no places like that anymore; everything is so formal, and if you swear really loud, you’re out, just like that.

“Here, it’s not like that. You could scream at someone, get into an argument, and then all of a sudden you work it out and you’re hugging and back in the mosh pit rocking out to the band again… Everyone that comes to the Zoo is like one big family.”

While Green and his family are sad to let go of that, the hotelier says he’s ready to enjoy a well-earned retirement and to let someone else take the reins.

“I think it’s time for a positive change for the Zoo. I figure my family’s had a 35-year run, which is pretty good,” says Green. “I’ve met some wonderful people, I’ve met some great bands and I’m happy to be part of it… It’s a bittersweet thing.”

To his loyal patrons, Green has a simple, heartfelt message:

“I just want to say thank you for all the years of support — it’s been a wonderful 35 years.”

Twitter: @NireRabel 

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