LIVE! on Elgin  - Jon & Lawrence

LIVE! on Elgin - Jon & Lawrence

LIVE! on Elgin

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220 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K2P 1L7
Ottawa, ON

Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio


Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got started.

I was born and raised in Ottawa.  From a young age I was always involved in school plays, organizing events, student's council, that sort of stuff.  At Hillcrest High School I had a great drama teacher, Rennie Reynolds, who encouraged me to pursue my passion.  I attended Ryerson Polytech (now University) and studied acting there.  After that I attended Carleton University attaining a BA with a combined major in Economic and Law.  Then I kicked around a bit between restaurants and our family business before getting married and moving to England to study and get a bit more serious about acting.  We decided to return to Canada and raise a family and I settled into the family business, a jewellery manufacturing company that closed in 2008 after 86 years in business.  I briefly owned a flower shop, then found myself at loose ends in 2013.  Throughout those years I kept acting, usually at least one production a year, with Orpheus Musical Theatre mostly, but then later on with Ottawa Little Theatre, Nepean Little Theatre (now defunct) and a whole slew of community and semi-professional companies.  I also served on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees at Orpheus, and was heavily involved in the hospitality life of the organization as Social Convenor and bar manager.  So you see, much of what I have done in life led directly to Live! on Elgin.

What gap does Live on Elgin fill in the entertainment industry?

Live is a performance room.  That's why it exists.  It's not a bar or pub or restaurant where the entertainment is secondary.  It is a listening room. It is also available to everyone, not just the music industry.  As such we can accommodate some events that other places won't touch because they are a bit too "out there".  We are home to everyone.


Why is it important to you to highlight local talent?

From my point of view, that is the future.  We need to get back to basics, back to encouraging our youth to pursue the arts, getting young people to go out to see music events, theatrical events, live entertainment of all sorts and away from their "Netflix and chill" lifestyle.  Live entertainment is the essence of life.  This is where people take chances and express themselves without fear of censorship, without having to deal with ratings.  Supporting local helps get them to a place mentally, emotionally, and talent-wise where they can stretch their wings and move on beyond our little home to bigger and better things.  WE are the roots, the verdant soil from which the talent of this country grows.  This is where people cut their teeth.  No, it's not the same exposure as YouTube, but it prepares performers for that larger platform.

Lawrence – what was it like making the transition from performer to venue owner?

What transition??  I still perform whenever I can lol.  Jon and the rest of our staff co-operate fully in allowing me to pursue my passion. Just as we encourage all of our employees to develop their artistic careers.

Do you think you have a different perspective on things when it comes to running the venue, given your past experience performing?

Yes, I think so.  Both Jon and I care immensely about the success of our performers.  We are there to help them move forward.  Not the greatest business model, but we are rewarded by the success of our clients and employees.  For us, the performers come first.  We treat them as we like to be treated when we are out there.  I have great respect for all of long as they follow our written motto "Just don't be a dick".


Jon - you became involved in the Ottawa arts community after joining a band in High School. Tell us a bit about that.

The band was a lot of fun! I was surrounded by music & musical theatre at a young age from my folks but enjoyed preforming in a band a lot more than performing theatre. It was just a good time with friends but learned a bit about the industry while we were at it. After the band broke up I was looking for something to fill the arts gap in my life and presenting shows just came naturally to me as a next step.

What’s it like running a business as a father/son team? Who actually has the final say? ;)

It's a lot of fun.  We have a great deal of respect for each other and what we bring to the table. We have our areas of expertise and are careful not to cross the lines into each other's territory.  I learned early on to leave everything pertaining to music to Jon. He knows the biz, he knows the people.  That's the line in the sand.  There is not real final say.  We discuss, weigh pros and cons, and compromise based on what's best for the venue.  We are 50/50 partners in every way.  Granted, we don't have much social time together!  One of us is always here.


What are your favourite kinds of events to host?

I don't really have a favorite.  I do admit, some of the music may not be to my liking, but that's a matter of personal taste.  Obviously I love hosting theatrical events...Improv, Burlesque, stand up comedy.

When you’re not busy running your business, what are some of your favourite Elgin Street locations to go to relax?

For a nice intimate dinner, Johnny Farina's.  Drinks with friends, The Manx.  For a quicker bite before work, The Fox and Feather.


What’s it like being a part of the Elgin Street community?

There is a lot of support along the street for each other.  I enjoy shopping at the retail stores etc. We all get to know each other.  It is a really cool, diverse collection of businesses.

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