Divan Orange is gone, Bobards is gone, Perfecto is gone, but this month, the Plateau is getting a brand new music venue (and “multifaceted performance venue”), right above two well-known establishments on St-Laurent Blvd.
When it opens its doors on Aug. 31, Diving Bell Social Club will be located at 3956 St-Laurent in a 150-capacity space on the third floor above the sports bar Champs. The ground floor is occupied by longtime cozy club/lounge Blizzarts, whose co-owner Evan Johnston discovered the Diving Bell room — which had been empty for two years, and housed a succession of small-time, sometimes sketchy businesses beforehand — via the building’s landlord.
“It was a dream — it’s a beautiful huge space right on St-Laurent, right on the Main,” Johnston says. “When I saw it, immediately I just said I’m gonna have to do something with this space no matter what happens. If anyone else had laid their eyes on it, they would’ve snatched it up so it was lucky that the landlord was hanging onto it.”
Aside from working at Blizzarts, Johnston is one of the operators of St-Henri DIY venue the BOG, and his partner there, Austin Wrinch, as well as the BOG’s co-booker Sarah Armiento, joined him in the Diving Bell project.
“The BOG kind of hit its peak about a year ago,” Johnston says. “There wasn’t much more we can do with the space. It’s not a legal venue, our capacity was pretty low and we’re always on edge about trying to both be safe and not get shut down.”
While the BOG will remain open to host a few events per month, the team will focus their attention on Diving Bell, ensuring that the pitfalls of DIY venues won’t cramp their Plateau style. Of course, being right in the middle of the action on St-Laurent, one would think that noise complaints won’t be a big issue for Diving Bell, but tell that to the ex-owners of Divan Orange and Bobards.
“We’re used to being very overly cautious with that because of the BOG,” says Johnston, who notes that although Blizzarts regularly hosts pretty loud DJ nights, “bass music on the third floor may be a little crazier than bass music on the first floor, in the back. What we’re hoping to do (at Diving Bell) is have our shows go till standard show time, wrap up at 12 and sometimes we’ll do a cross-venue, cross-promotion thing where the line-up upstairs will be planned out with somebody downstairs at Bliz to close the night from 12 till 3. Once we test it out, if noise isn’t a big issue and we’ve soundproofed properly, then we’ll be licensed to be open till 3 anyway, so we’ll hopefully be able to go later in the future.”
Diving Bell Social Club will launch on Friday, Aug. 31 with a community meet-and-greet followed by their inaugural monthly two-day bazaar on Sept. 1 and 2, featuring over 20 vendors, DJs, food, drinks and local art. In its opening month, the venue will host multiple shows, a comedy night and a POP Montreal festival event.
Among the other members of the Diving Bell team are Maryse Bernard, who handles social media (as she does for Blizzarts) and PR; daytime booker Teddy Lanzon and sound expert Jason Lopes. But a lot of good will has been involved in getting this venue ready for action, and there’s been plenty of necessary bureaucracy, too.
“I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum, with Bliz being a fully legitimate space that existed long before I even moved to Montreal (from Edmonton, eight years ago) and I’ve got the BOG, which is just a treehouse for bands doing things under the table. This space is a melding of both worlds: it’s legit, and it was imperative for us to be a legitimate space with a liquor license and occupation permit, however we don’t have a huge budget so a lot of the process has been rallying our friends and people who are interested in helping.
“A lot of it has just been pulling out garbage,” he adds. “We filled eight 15-foot UHauls worth of trash.”
That’s a lot of space to party in, and now that it’s being aired out and revitalized, Diving Bell is nearly ready to be a new Montreal hotspot. Keep an eye on cultmtl.com in the coming weeks for photos and more programming details. ■
For more about Diving Bell Social Club, go to the venue’s website.