Rainbow Bistro shows continue through sponsorship and with no capacity limits

OTTAWA — Indoor concerts can now be performed to packed houses in Ontario, and for the many venues hosting events, Ontario’s move to relax regulations represents a chance to recover from nearly two years of canceled performances.

The show was almost over for the Rainbow Bistro in downtown Ottawa. Owner Danny Sivyer closed the doors of his intimate concert hall when the pandemic broke out. Margins were too low due to capacity constraints.

“We were closed for 18 months, we weren’t open at all,” Sivyer says. “Fifty people didn’t pay for the band, or the sound guy, or the bartenders, and the doorman.”

But just as the doors of one of the city’s last old music halls were about to close for good, Calian Group CEO Kevin Ford got wind of what was about to happen and called to meet Sivyer to see how he was going. could help.

“Blue Rodeo, the first time they ever played in Ottawa, was here. The Tragically Hip played here, kd long, before anyone knew who she was, played here,” says Ford. “From my point of view, that’s the closest thing to a Radio City Music Hall, which has hosted the name bands of many acts in Canada. We have a venue that is our legacy, where the walls can talk and the posters can talk. It gives our artists a place to play, which is important, and it gives us, as Ottawans, a place to go to live music.”

Ford suggested they raise money through corporate sponsorship, which they did. Ten sponsors purchased space for their logo on the ceiling of the Rainbow, for a total of $50,000.

“Which they hand over to me, which we’re going to put in the bank and hopefully pay the bills all winter long until we can hopefully get rid of COVID-19,” Sivyer said. “It’s the city that loves music.”

Music lovers can rejoice. The province has relaxed the regulations for concert halls. Capacity limits are gone and general admission or standing tickets can now be sold. Proof of vaccination is required and masks must be worn, but dancing is not allowed. However, Sivyer says he was told by enforcers that “standing by your seat and shuffling rhythmically” is allowed.

Jamie Kwong, executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, a nonprofit that aims to grow the local music industry, says artists and businesses will benefit from the pandemic’s end.

“I see all the bookings with musicians now, it was great,” says Kwong. “And it’s so important to draw crowds out and generate revenue for locations that can’t open and operate.”

Sivyer’s return will be stable. He plans to have bands perform every weekend and will slowly reach the post-pandemic days of live music seven days a week. But this weekend in particular will be music to Sivyer’s ears, when Canadian musician David GoGo takes the stage not only to play to what will likely be a sold-out crowd, but also a birthday party. The Rainbow Bistro turns 37.


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