Montreal Venue Staff Association

Turbo Haüs

Montreal music venues raising funds for COVID-19 relief

A dozen small show bars launched a GoFundMe as the Montreal Venue Staff Association.

The measures undertaken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic have changed all of our lives, and will continue to. For some Montrealers, adjustments have largely meant working from home. For others, including servers, bartenders and other staff of Montreal music venues, that’s not an option. And, while various governments have made various assurances that help is coming, you can’t buy bread with assurances. 

That’s why a group called the Montreal Venue Staff Association has been created, and why they’re raising money. Describing themselves as a “loose association of people who work in live music venues in Montreal,” the group has launched a GoFundMe attempting to raise $130,000 for the recently displaced workers from Barfly, Brasserie Beaubien, Casa del Popolo, the Diving Bell Social Club, l’Escogriffe, Quai des Brumes, Resonance Café, Bar le Ritz PDB, la Sala Rossa, Sotterenea, Turbo Haüs and la Vitrola. 

From a release:

The measures taken to address COVID-19 have had a dramatic impact on many people’s lives. On March 14, when the minister of Culture and Communications Nathalie Roy asked concert venues to close for 30 days, the 165 bartenders, servers, cleaners, sound technicians, concert promoters, DJs, cooks and security personnel we represent suddenly lost their livelihood. And while this was absolutely the right call to make, it’s created a financial squeeze on the folks that work in these spaces.

“This isn’t about the venues right now,” says Turbo Haüs co-owner Sergio Da Silva. “We’re just hoping to raise some money for the people that depend on the work to eat.” 

The GoFundMe means to support these workers at least through the next month, when, hopefully, EI claims can be processed. This doesn’t assume that every single affected worker will qualify for and receive EI — it is at best a short-term stopgap.

Sarah Armiento has watched the COVID-19 shutdowns affect the entirety of her business endeavours. “As a booker at Diving Bell, come April, I’ve lost that job, and that’s my main source of income, so obviously that’s a stressful situation for me,” she says. “I also run Hot Tramp, which is my other source of income and also in the music world. 

“[This has] kind of derailed every way I was making money.”

Turbo Haüs bartender Emilie Laine describes her mood as “light panic and Jameson.” Still, she says she and her similarly displaced co-workers are doing what they can to keep each other in good spirits while we all wait to see what happens next vis-à-vis employment and governmental assistance.

“We turned the staff Facebook page into a shitposting/Tiger King binge page,” she says. “You spend most of your ‘social time’ with your coworkers in a bar and you become really close. The reflex to be silly or crazy to help you deal with the stress of a busy shift is helpful right now. ■

You can support Montreal music venues by contributing to the GoFundMe here.

For more coverage of the Montreal music and nightlife scene, see the Music section.

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