206 Elgin St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3E-3N5. (705) 674-6883. This bar and old hotel sits next to the Sudbury Community Arena and across the street from the old train station in downtown Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The building went up in approximately 1902 and has served the city as a livery stable, a post-war centre, a pharmacy, the unemployment centre, many restaurants and taverns. From the late 1960’s through the 70’s and the early 80’s, this was the place that your parents warned you about. The main floor had long been several different lounges with names like The Stope, The Nickel Bin and The Hop. The restaurant in the basement was closed down in the 70’s and the room on the main floor was turned into one single room. There were no windows and the clientele was rough.
In 1986 Maurice Desjardins bought the Townehouse Tavern and he and his family set out to run the business. The first few years were rough as sons Maury, Bernie and Rick constantly battled the rough edges of downtown. The country band circuit gave way to a few of the town’s young rock bands like the classics Budget Motel, and Galahad’s Pad. North Bay’s Molly Maguires came over to do some weekends and word started to get out that the Townehouse was going rock.
In the spring of 1991, young Toronto agent RJ Guha was looking for a venue for The Corndogs to play on their way out on tour. The Sudbury scene was sporting a few gigs at The Coach House, The Edge, The International and The Coulson Hotel at the time, and other than that… unless CFLR radio at Laurentian threw a hall show for you, then there wasn’t much going on for interesting music to travel through this town. Well, friends talk to other friends and so on and the next thing you know, RJ is calling Bernie, now booking the bar, to ask for a gig for the Corndogs. The band had some well played records on the Campus and community radio station, CFLR and it brought out a ton of nice kids who didn’t fight and drank up a storm. The light bulb went off and Bernie decided that he would get more of those bands that brought out the friendly crowd… Imagine… not having to fight every night. The flood gates were opened as Canada’s music scene was filled to the brim with bands on the road in 1991. Everyone wanted to see bands. Everyone loved live music. King Apparatus, the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Me Mom and Morgantaler, The Leslie Spit Trio, Skaface, The Thomas Trio, The Hopping Penguins, One, Skavenjah, Roots Roundup, Razor, The razorbacks, Celtic Blue, The Morganfields, Jack deKeyser, The Wetspots, The Ripcordz, UIC, the Asexuals, the Leather Uppers, Dead Beat Back Bone, The Imagineers, Mother Tongue, and so many more all played the bar in the first year or so.
The key from the very start was to have your own P.A. SoundManJamie hooked Bernie up with some power amps, some EQ’s, good Renkus-Heinz speakers and a Tascam mixing console. You should have seen these tiny little wedge monitors we had back then… I can’t believe that bands like the Bourbons actually played with what we had. SoundManAl ran that system for about five years until it was worn out. SoundManDoug took over in the spring of ’95 and bandaged the P.A. together for another 7 years past its expiry date. In the last two years we have replaced nearly everything except for the boxes that the top speakers came in and two of the old EV power amps are still going!! SoundManLuke took over from Doug in November 2003 and has been mixing since.
My name is Paul Loewenberg and I have been working for Bernie since the fall of 1993, when he asked me to help him poster at the University for his shows. The next spring I started working the door and bartending. By September of 1996 I was the most senior person around and started taking on the duties of bar manager and booker as well as the promoter/ poster guy. By the time Bernie was getting married in the summer of 1998, I was starting to talk with the agents and traveling bands on Bernie's behalf. Bernie is still here, running things, making sure I do my job, making sure that we still have a building to do business in. His sister, Patty, does the books and makes sure that we have paychecks and that the bills get paid. It's a family business.
In September of 1995 I issued my first Calendar. It would become a monthly staple of the Townehouse promotions and in December 2003 I reached the 100th issue. This website will feature the monthly calendar as well as a forum for discussion and opinion, because dammit, it’s the internet and people just love to blab about EVERYTHING here. Welcome.
In September 2004 we had an interesting experience of having the bar used for several scenes in a MOVIE about Shania Twain's early years. You'll see Matt Foy, myself (Paul) and many parts of the bar disguised as old 70's and 80's joints throughout the movie. There's some external shots as well... they blacked out all the street lights and lit up the street and parked wild old vintage cars outside the building. The movie should air in 2005 and we hope to get a copy of it at some point for our records. Good times.
In November 2004 the Desjardins signed a lease with the owners of the building two doors down from us. For many years this place was called, This Ain't The Only Cafe. In April of 2005 the owners of the Townehouse Tavern were proud to open the coolest new restaurant in town, Laughing Buddha. Long time Townehouse employee Matt Foy went over to manage the restaurant. Matt left in July of 2008 for other adventures and the restaurant thrives on under the management of Bernie, Patty, Jeff Mac, Myself, Jeff Burton and a colourful cast of characters on staff. Check it out soon!
The Townehouse Tavern books live music 363 days a year (we don’t have anything on X-mas eve or X-mas day, though we are still open). The front end of the week is mostly occupied by local musicians playing guitar or piano. There is generally no cover charge, no doorman, no soundman on Sunday through Wednesday. The place is laid back… there’s no fights… people come to shoot pool, sit back, shoot the shit with friends and listen to some good music. The weekends are saved for full bands.
The acoustic players are hired for their diversity of repertoire. We don’t hire anyone who does too much classic rock, modern country or sugary pop folk music. That means that you will probably not hear too much Tragically Hip, Trooper, Streetheart, Loverboy, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, or Cat Stevens… especially no Cat Stevens. You are more likely to hear people’s own music, or groups like Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Billy Bragg, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Fred Eaglesmith and such.
The bands on the weekends cover the spectrum of music. We book rock, funk, blues, jazz, R&B, ska, reggae, soul, folk, roots, trad, punk, heavy metal, hardcore, world, artrock, garage, surf, acid jazz, jam bands etc. Paul (me), the booker, is an avid music collector, player, listener and viewer. I had eclectic tastes wired into me by Bernie who, to this day, still strongly motivates me to never let the programming be boring. In addition, I have been volunteering at our community radio station since October of 1989, five weeks after I moved to this city.
With live music in this country slowly dying out in other cities, The Townehouse Tavern continues to fight daily to have people come out and dig live music. Here’s hoping that we shall prosper by sticking to our guns. There is a lot of interesting music out there and we hope to be the ones who will show it all to Sudbury. If you’ve got soul and energy, we’ll do our best to book you and make sure that you get paid.
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