By Kennedy Pawluk
EDMONTON – Opened in early 2016 by local restaurateur Greg Doucet, the Sewing Machine Factory (SMF) quickly became a staple for live music in Edmonton. Located under the Mill Creek Café, the venue took a lead role in supporting Edmonton’s DIY independent music scene. It hosted hundreds of local and touring acts, helping fill the void of the notorious Wunderbar which closed its doors only months before.
Initially the venue operated solely in the basement space including the bar. Doucet made the decision to move the bar to the café upstairs, and that’s how it remained for months before the basement needed to close for necessary renovations. Before the basement closed all together, it became an opportunity to run all-ages events. This led to the SMF gaining a reputation as the pivotal all-ages venue.
In the mean time, Mill Creek Café stepped in to host events but the change in space meant the loss of the all-ages aspect and a substantially lowered capacity. BeatRoute spoke with Tab C.A., the Booking Agent/Promoter of the SMF about many of the frustrations involved with the change in space and the difficulties the venue has had to overcome throughout the renovations of the main showroom.
“All the work involved in transforming a cafe into a temporary music venue was a lot of manual labour as well as a super DIY style set up for sound/lighting/bar,” explains C.A.
“Another frustrating aspect was definitely the lack of communication between city inspectors and the inaccessibility of information on what we needed to do to have all of our licensing for the venue. We spent a lot of time not really knowing how to move forward at all and had no guidelines on how to do so except for a one step at a time one paper signed at a time approach.”
“Because we weren’t able to have a bar or food served from the basement, we had the unique opportunity to have a 100 per cent all ages space,” continues C.A.
“Moving forward, as much as we recognize how important all-ages spaces are, it’s unfortunately impossible to maintain a full time all-ages space due to liquor sales keeping us sustainable. What we will be doing is one or two all-ages shows per month and I will be doing community outreach to involve youth and organization’s that support youth in the arts.”
While there are still a few battles to win in terms of the all-ages aspect of the venue, it was an incredibly joyful day for the employees and supporters to hear the news they’d been waiting for it seemed forever.
“After playing and working venues for years it was a bit of an intense reality seeing how much work, cost, and time goes into starting a legitimate place for people to play and perform from scratch,” says manager Lucas Finnamore-Smith.
“It’s not something you generally think of when you walk into any venue, whether it be a 400 person room or a hole-in-the-wall. There has been so many supportive local and out of town bands that have been with us through most of these steps that we’re sharing our excitement with now that the doors are finally open and the papers signed.”
The Sewing Machine Factory has passed all recent inspections and is now running shows several times a week. Visit their Facebook page for a regularly updated events schedule.DIY, The Sewing Machine Factory