After years without a dedicated space for live music, Haven Music Hall is poised to become an important hub for Saint John artists when it opens its doors this fall.
It’s been a long time coming. After more than two years without a consistent music venue Saint John musicians will soon have a stage to call their own when the Haven Music Hall opens its doors this fall.
Located at 201 Union Street in the city’s uptown core, Haven Music Hall will provide an essential community need while also satisfying a longtime dream shared by co-owners Abigail Smith and Sidney Foy.
“We’ve always talked about opening a music venue the way people talk about things in their early twenties,” said Smith. “Not really serious, but at the same time being something we were both very interested in doing, if that makes sense. But in the last few years the idea kept getting sharper and here we are.”
Smith and Foy were both involved in the Princess Street eatery Ethel & Mary’s with owner Matt Elliott and credit that experience for helping spark the confidence behind their new venture.
“When Ethel & Mary’s closed, it just felt like the right time to do this,” said Smith. “We had accrued all this knowledge about funding a new business and it just felt right. And when we found this space, we just fell in love. For better or for worse, because it’s got a lot going on. But it just seemed romantic in a way because this building used to be an opera house back when it was first constructed.”
Part of themotivation behind launching Haven Music Hall came from the closure of Taco Pica, a Germaine Street restaurant that opened its space in the evenings for all ages concerts in the years leading up to the pandemic. The restaurant has become a hub for live music hosting local and touring bands as well as playing an integral part in the city’s Quality Block Party music festival. Since Taco Pica closed in the early days of Covid, the city’s live music scene has been virtually non-existent.
“I was always really inspired by Taco Pica,” said Smith. “This project also addresses my frustration as a promoter in not having any space to book shows because it’s been pretty rough in Saint John since Taco Pica closed. There hasn’t been an easy place to do a show since. You have to rent space. There’s just no dedicated music space and so we really felt it was the right time to do something kind of crazy and ambitious. I just had this sense that if we could just get a hold on a physical space then we can make it all happen.”
Smith says the local community has been incredibly supportive since they began renovating the space with support coming in from the Saint John Tool Library, friends who are carpenters and others involved in the music scene.
“Everyone’s been so generous. It’s been a very humbling experience. I think it’s already given some of us a boost,” she said. “It certainly has for me, and for musicians in town just to know that there will be a place to play.”
Haven Music Hall will operate as a cafe, prioritizing creativity, inclusivity, and socialization. By night, the space will transform into a music venue with a standing-room capacity of approximately 100 people.
Smith, who is also involved in organizing the city’s summer Girl’s Rock Camps, hopes the addition of a special facilities license will also allow the space to play host to all ages shows in the future.
“There’s definitely no place for teenagers to go and there’s definitely no place for them to book a show,” she said. “I wanted to build a place that was possible for the rock campers to be able to play after the rock camp’s over.”
While an official opening date has yet to be announced, there is currently a GoFundMe campaign underway to support the purchase of a PA system.