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The Star: Is it closing time for the Matador?

RJR123

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Article in today's Globe confirming that Council voted to expropriate the land in order to build a parking lot. Giambrone is in full support of this...yes, in the year 2007 we have decided to tear down history to build a parking lot. Note that the YMCA rep indicated that they have NEVER approached the city about additional parking because they are on a streetcar line. What a joke....sometimes I'm so embarassed to live in this city.

A ruckus at closing time
The city's move to replace a historic nightspot with parking has musicians, preservationists - and the local BIA - singing the blues
DEIRDRE KELLY

September 29, 2007

'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

It may be the line from a famous Joni Mitchell song, but the words ring true for patrons of the Matador, a popular after-hours club where Ms. Mitchell has been a regular. As of this week, it has been targeted by the Toronto Parking Authority for demolition.

"I've spent my life here," says Ann Dunn, a 79-year-old mother of five who bought the club in 1962 and has been operating it ever since. "We've been good to Toronto, we've launched many a career, and now Toronto wants to turn us into a parking lot? It doesn't make any sense."

The Toronto Parking Authority wants the solid 93-year-old brick building for a 20-spot surface lot, and a decision to expropriate the property was approved by city council on Wednesday morning. "Oh my god!" Charmaine Dunn, who manages the club for her ailing mother, exclaimed when told of the news on Thursday. "I needed the heart of the Matador and the heart of my own mother - the two are connected - to keep on beating. It's not what we wanted. We at least thought we could negotiate this."

Print Edition - Section Front
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John Kingman Phillips, the Dunn family's lawyer, said the family would be preparing a response. "Expropriations are usually done when there is a need for a right-of-way or for urban development," he said. "But to do this for a 20-spot parking lot? It boggles the mind."

The club has a long history as a premier venue for country and classic rock bands from across North America. Habitués such as Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash and Charley Pride scrawled their names on a back wall. Roy Rogers is up there somewhere too, his name hidden by elk antlers. Where will the wall go now? "It's too early to say," Ms. Dunn said, remorsefully. Thinking of the building where the family gathers for Christmas and birthdays and where her granddaughter lives in an upstairs apartment, Ann Dunn said, "I'm having trouble concentrating, because I'm not just losing my club - I'm losing my home."

And losing it she is, even after rejecting the city's initial offer of $800,000 to buy the property last January. "It was insulting," she explained. "Houses next door sell for much more than that."

Now, an expropriation process will go ahead, during which time the parking authority will try to make a deal with Mrs. Dunn, TPA president Gwyn Thomas said. If they can't agree on a price, a compensation amount will be determined based on market value. The TPA, Mr. Thomas said, sees a strong need for parking near the club's location at College and Dovercourt. "There are a number of major generators, local businesses and restaurants," he said, "as well as the West End YMCA, located across the street from the club."

Local councillor Adam Giambrone did not oppose the TPA's recommendation to demolish the club for parking, and he suggested that the club hasn't been an entirely welcome presence in the area. "I know there have been ongoing issues about the Matador concerning noise," he said.

Mr. Giambrone, who has never set foot in the club, said he won't miss it when it's gone. And neither, he said, will the club's immediate neighbours. "They will not be sad to see it go."

But Catherine Nasmith, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, is shocked at the decision to tear it down. "That the city is wanting to build a downtown parking lot is itself nuts," said Ms. Nasmith, an architect who is also past president of the Toronto Preservation Board. "We don't do that any more. It goes against all urban planning policies of the City of Toronto. We haven't been building surface parking lots in the city since the 1970s. And on top of a building that has such a rich history, to boot? That's the most bizarre story I have heard in ages."

For his part, YMCA chief executive officer Scott Haldane said the West End Y doesn't need and has never requested parking from the city. "We are on a streetcar line," he said.

But Mike Sinopoli, chair of the Bloorcourt Village Business Improvement Area, confirmed that parking for others on the strip is a growing problem. High-end restaurants such as Chiado and a new cheese store, La Fromagerie, are drawing Torontonians from across the city to the neighbourhood, he said. Meanwhile, rising real-estate prices reflect an increased demand for the neighbourhood's solid brick Victorian houses.

"The goal is for even more intensification," added Mr. Sinopoli, who owns Ralph's Hardware, a neighbourhood fixture for the past 50 years. "You can see that from all the new construction taking place on College Street." Still, Mr. Sinopoli wouldn't have recommended that the city tear down a grand old building like the Matador to create parking. He said the Matador, because it is a link to the neighbourhood's storied past, "adds an element of charm."

Originally built in 1914 as a dance hall for Canadian soldiers billeted for duty overseas during First World War, the Matador is as rich architecturally as it is culturally. A vaulted Alhambra-esque ceiling overhangs a sprung oak floor stomped to a silvery patina by the likes of Stompin' Tom Connors.

"When I first saw the arches," Ms. Dunn reminisced as she walked through the structure earlier this week, her steps hobbled by illness and old age, but her mind brimming with memories, "I thought of Spain. That's why I called it the Matador."

Those arches are today strung up with cowboy boots that once belonged to, among others, filmmaker Bruce McDonald, who counts himself among long-time friends of the Matador who are at a loss to aid the club that helped them make their mark.

Leonard Cohen, who often performed there, wrote Closing Time as a tribute to the club in the nineties; k.d. lang shot the video there for her hit single Crying, and indie-country chanteuse Neko Case recorded selections there for her 2004 live album The Tigers Have Spoken.

"It's just like Toronto to want to tear something down and ignore the legacy that surrounds a building like the Matador," said Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor, another long-time Matador regular. "This is a city of merchants who have no connection to the city around them. It actually makes me very sad. The Toronto I grew up in is now gone."

On the eve of the expropriation decision, Mr. Keelor mused that the Matador should be designated a historic site "because of the great community of artists that have been there, from Leonard Cohen and k.d. lang to Prairie Oyster and Blue Rodeo. I'd love to organize something in protest."

Mr. Thomas wished him luck. "They can put pressure on anything they want," he said of the artists. "But there are no other spots available."

This land is our land?

Expropriation, the practice by which government lays claim to private property, is rare in Toronto, but a variety of different public bodies actually have the power. "Under the Ontario Expropriations Act, municipalities, school boards, universities, hospitals and government bodies have the right to expropriate private property for their purposes," explains real-estate lawyer Bob Aaron.

Expropriation generally occurs "when there's a valuable social purpose," Mr. Aaron says - such as the expansion of Ryerson University's downtown campus, for which the university has expropriated the former site of Sam the Record Man, or the redevelopment of the Yonge and Dundas area beginning in 1996.

Large-scale expropriations - like those that drove "urban renewal" projects such as City Hall, Regent Park and Moss Park - have been deeply unpopular in the city for a generation. (The fight to stop the Spadina

Expressway, settled in 1971 by premier Bill Davis, is perhaps the most obvious example.)

But when it comes to the Matador, Mr. Aaron suggests that the reason for the decision has driven the negative response. "What really rankles in this case is that it's a parking lot," he says.

"If this is was to make way for a school or library... people wouldn't be as upset as they are about the city taking away somebody's land and business for a mere parking lot."
 

unimaginative2

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Local councillor Adam Giambrone did not oppose the TPA's recommendation to demolish the club for parking, and he suggested that the club hasn't been an entirely welcome presence in the area. "I know there have been ongoing issues about the Matador concerning noise," he said.

Mr. Giambrone, who has never set foot in the club, said he won't miss it when it's gone. And neither, he said, will the club's immediate neighbours. "They will not be sad to see it go."
Ahh, so the real reason for this comes out. It's the fun police at it again. "I don't go to a place like that, so nobody should." What has gotten into our city council? They're supposed to be so progressive,

I think that this is beyond outrageous, and for a parking lot?! I'm sending a letter to the mayor, since I Know that a letter to my councillor (the twit Adam Vaughan) would be more than useless.
 

RJR123

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You're exactly right...the only reason they want to close it down is because a few neighbours are irritated by its presence. Here we have a city council that claims abject poverty yet authorizes 800K to expropriate and build a parking lot? And a city that claims to want to be a green leader, yet is encouraging people to drive? Have people never heard of streetcars and taxis? I agree about not wasting your time with Asshole Vaughan, he'd be beyond useless in this, and probably supports the closure...he'll probably say that parking lots bring cars filled with families, which will allow us to avoid the downfall of our city.
 

poppajojo

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This is a real shame, to think that a prominent performer such as Neko Case recorded live there as recently as 3 years ago and now they're planning to turn it into a parking lot? huge step backwards.
 

adma

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I think that this is beyond outrageous, and for a parking lot?! I'm sending a letter to the mayor, since I Know that a letter to my councillor (the twit Adam Vaughan) would be more than useless.
Actually, before arbitrarily deeming him "useless", I might be interested in knowing what Adam Vaughan thinks--sure, there's that "anti-fun police" side to him re the Club District, but w/the Matador, we're talking about more of an El Mocambo-style "cultural institution", the polar opposite of the Club District's greasy-drunken-suburbanite/sleazeball image. (Put it this way; a typical Club District proprietor would be no less prone to demolishing or mutilating a dump like the Matador. They're vulgarians catering to vulgarians, y'know.)

I really can see Adam persuading Adam, so to speak. In any event, it might not take much for A. Giambrone to cave to the opposition...
 

unimaginative2

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You're exactly right...the only reason they want to close it down is because a few neighbours are irritated by its presence. Here we have a city council that claims abject poverty yet authorizes 800K to expropriate and build a parking lot? And a city that claims to want to be a green leader, yet is encouraging people to drive? Have people never heard of streetcars and taxis? I agree about not wasting your time with Asshole Vaughan, he'd be beyond useless in this, and probably supports the closure...he'll probably say that parking lots bring cars filled with families, which will allow us to avoid the downfall of our city.
Oh Amen, RJR. It'll be more than 800k, too, if they expropriate. We're going to be spending over a million dollars to buy and tear down a landmark business in order to put up a parking lot.

And adma, it's not just the club district. He's trying to shut down College Street, too, and "clean up" Kensington. I'm surprised by Adam Giambrone in all this. I mean... if a downtown NDP twentysomething has gotten caught up in all this fun police crap, what are the people in the suburbs saying?
 

Blovertis

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They're vulgarians catering to vulgarians, y'know.
This kind snobbery is at base what I suspect motivates people like Vaughan in their campaign against the clubs. So the Entertainment district is full of what you might describe as "cheesy" people -- what, they're not allowed to have fun on a Friday night?

It takes all kinds to make a city -- young suburbanites at Joe as well as scenesters at the Matador.
 

adma

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But my point is: when it comes to an Adam Vaughan type (or even, ultimately, an Adam Giambrone type), you've got a *far* better chance on behalf of scenesters than on behalf of suburbanites.

And it helps if y'all don't engage in "Asshole Vaughan" slurring; you're only going to drive him further away...
 

RJR123

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But my point is: when it comes to an Adam Vaughan type (or even, ultimately, an Adam Giambrone type), you've got a *far* better chance on behalf of scenesters than on behalf of suburbanites.

And it helps if y'all don't engage in "Asshole Vaughan" slurring; you're only going to drive him further away...
Oh, please. Adam Vaughan, in print in yesterday's National Post, called Peter Gatien a "jerk" and was a complete fucking cry-baby. I can call him an asshole if I want since it lines up with the level of discourse that he is setting. Anyways, this is yet another red herring...the issue here is the destruction of the Matador for a parking lot.
 

adma

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Er, the Peter Gatien sphere and the Matador sphere are in different universes, ya know.

Put it this way, the Matador is a cause more compatible with a Spacing/uTOpian POV (and their Jane Jacobite CBC chattering-class forebears). Next to that, yes, Peter Gatien *is* a, er, "jerk".

So, you can disagree with Adam V. on the club-district front; but that sensibility might actually work on behalf of the Matador...
 

unimaginative2

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Adma, like mine, his point is simply that terms like asshole are quite appropriate, since he's more than willing to call a local businessman a "jerk" (no matter what you think of him, a councillor should be more diplomatic) and even a fellow councillor "A goddamned hypocrite."

He's a goddamned embarrassment.
 

RJR123

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Vaughan's a total embarassment. What Gatien is trying to do is akin to what Strober did with the Drake, which is to kick things up several notches in a neighbourhood. He's a legitimate businessman opening a legitimate business and following all the proper channels, yet Vaughan still feels he can shit all over him because it's contrary to his Whitby-esque vision of downtown Toronto.
 

spaced

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Hmm, tear down a landmark in a part of town with very few. What a great idea. How about tearing down a couple houses displacing a few people instead of leveling a venue that has entertained thousands--even as seedy as it is.
I'm surprised at Giambrone, the NDPers I use to hang out with use to enjoy this club. Maybe Toronto is as boring as New Yorkers say it is.
 
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