Guelph Arts Council transforms eBar into artBar

GUELPH – The eBar, a space known for musical performances, poetry slams, and 2SLGBTQIA+ dance parties, permanently closed its doors early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Soon, the space will reopen as a Guelph Arts Council (GAC) gallery, office and performance space. 

In a press release announcing the artBar’s launch, GAC executive director Damian Weston said the building “will be GAC offices during the day, but will also be available as a low-barrier, fully accessible… for-rent performance venue.”

The venue is connected to The Bookshelf, The Bookshelf Cinema, and Miijidaa Cafe and Bistro, all of which are owned by Ben Minett.  

“The eBar functioned as an extension of The Bookshelf’s commitment to community and our dedication to inclusion, representation, and creative expression of all kinds,” Minett said. 

He noted “the eBar closed due to a perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic… coupled with changing business and social trends.”

The venue has been re-imagined “with new people who share our commitment to cultural exploration and support,” Minett said. 

Weston said The GAC was looking for a new space, as were many Guelph artists.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to many venues closing and “opportunities to present music, theatre, dance, visual art, (and) spoken word were becoming harder and harder to come by,” he noted, especially venues that don’t “take a percentage of merchandise.” 

Despite the name, the artBar will not be a bar, and will no longer be licensed to serve alcohol.

Instead, it will “serve art… those who create it, and those who wish to experience it,” Weston said.  

He noted keeping the venue licensed would take “enormous cost and logistics,” and not doing so means they can offer programming for youth. 

“Special permits will be available and accessible to groups wishing to sell alcohol,” Weston added. 

He said the venue will be like “a community hall or theatre” with cultural and artistic diversity.

“Our goal is to program with such a breadth of scope that within a few years every citizen of Guelph will have found a reason to come through our doors,” Weston said.  

Rental rates for the artBar are being determined, but GAC officials ensure “artists using the space will keep all merchandise sales and the majority of door/ticket sales – in most cases, they will keep all door sales.” 

The GAC hopes to begin booking in June.