History Lesson: The Cabaret du Mile-End

For the Cabaret du Mile-End, it’s the end of an era. Within the last five years, the venue has supported local performing arts communities. They’ve welcomed artists from all genres and all walks of life to their stage. And, most importantly, they’ve provided the backdrop for countless outstanding nights that Montreal’s showgoers won’t soon forget. Now, after hosting their final show this past weekend (November 28th), the venue as we know it is gone for good.

cred- Julie Gauthier

Back in October, technical director Michael Wattie announced that the Cabaret du Mile-End would be closed by the end of November, due to issues with renewing their lease. However, la coopérative de solidarité—overseers of the facility for the past five years—announced soon after that the venue would only be closing temporarily as it underwent a change in management. That time has come and, with a new owner and extensive renovations currently underway, what was once the Cabaret du Mile-End will soon be reborn with a new name.

In the wake of la coopérative de solidarité’s departure and the space’s impending makeover, we look back on the history of this beloved Montreal venue.

For the past thirty years or so, the Cabaret du Mile-End has been a music hall under one name or another, hosting thousands of local and visiting artists. Most people don’t know that the premises actually served as the original Club Soda, operating under this title from October 1983 to July 1999.

Gabor Szilasi
Club Soda, Montreal, 1984 by Gabor Szilasi. Source: National Gallery of Canada.

According to Club Soda’s bio, music promoter Guy Gosselin—along with filmmakers André Gagnon and Martin Després—discovered a reception hall on Avenue du Parc and transformed it into “a new kind of cabaret”. Their first major success came with the premiere of Lundi des Ha Ha, a comedy show by Ding et Dong that set the tone for much of the Quebec comedy programming to follow.

By the mid 80’s, Club Soda had become a renowned hub in Quebec’s entertainment industry, aiding in the launch of many famous artists during its time on Parc. Looking to expand, they closed their original venue in 1999 and were settled into their current location on St-Laurent by early 2000.

The former venue was then operated by Nuits d’Afrique, who transformed it into a world music club called Kola Note. In early 2010, ownership of the space changed hands once again, bringing in the venue’s most recent owners: la coopérative de solidarité. Led by independent producer Richard Simard and a mandate to serve the performing arts communities in the area, the Cabaret du Mile-End was born.

cabaret du mile-end
Source: Dans Tes Oreilles.

Now, despite the honourable reputation they’ve gained over the past half-decade, the Cabaret du Mile-End is no longer able to sustain itself. In an interview with Sors-tu?, a representative of la coopérative de solidarité cites mounting entertainment market pressures, plus rent, business taxes, and insurance costs as their reasons for selling the space.

The storied site is currently being taken over by Neon, a local promoter with a penchant for electronic music. According to Cult, the space is to be both renovated and renamed. While the Cabaret du Mile-End’s website says the next scheduled event is on February 16, 2015, they recently announced on Facebook that “the venue will reopen in a few weeks under a different administration“.

Source: Dans Tes Oreilles.

Though we won’t be holding our breaths, the former owners themselves have expressed hope in the new management’s ability to rejuvenate the space, noting that the renovations may help to “restore the prestige of the institution by making it once again a must in Montreal’s cultural landscape”.

As the Cabaret du Mile-End, the venue hosted more than 800 performances and was a mainstay for Montreal’s music scene. For sharing their space with the performing arts communities of Montreal and for all those unforgettable nights, the Cabaret du Mile-End will be remembered fondly by artists and spectators alike.

For updates on the opening of the Cabaret du Mile-End’s successor, check their facebook page.

Top image by Julie Gauthier.