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Lights turned off at Foxx Lounge 'until the time is right'

'It's like Cheers for the punk community. This is a scene I've always loved being in,' says booker
2019-07-12 Armed and Hammered RB 2
Armed and Hammered performs at the Foxx Lounge in downtown Barrie in this file photo from July 2019. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

The lights have dimmed indefinitely at the Foxx Lounge, as COVID-19 delivered a gut punch to the city's live music scene this week. 

Owners of the Dunlop Street East bar — known officially as the Foxx Lounge Rock Bar and Hotdoggery — have announced their future plans for the downtown venue, which opened 13 years ago and had a capacity for 75 people. 

In an Instagram post, the club owners say the last few days have been spent reminiscing about the club and its effect on people's lives. 

"So much happiness, a few tears, immensely huger-than-life friendships, marriages, celebrating new life, gathering to support one another after lives lost," says the post. "This place means everything to us! We appreciate and have never taken for granted what an amazing journey this has been. ... We hope to resurrect this truly beautiful business when the time is right."

The post is signed by owner Shane Heath, his wife Glenda, and the Foxx crew. 

They say made the decision to close the doors due to the uncertainty around the current health crisis and how it has affected the entertainment industry. 

"The likelihood of reopening depends on how our country deals with COVID-19," Heath told BarrieToday. "From what I am seeing, even small clubs will not be able to run full capacity for at least four or five months. We need to get past physical distancing and social measures that are in place to run a live venue." 

Heath said they pored over every article they could find in Canada and around the world the last few weeks before making a decision. He said he believes restaurants and bars won't be the same until next year. 

"We hope that this closure is temporary, but we are also not willing to run a rock club without socializing," Heath said. "The key factor to why and how we run is acceptance, togetherness and contact, the abilty to give some one a hug or hold their hand when they need it is our core moral value.

"We have always thought of ourselves as the house of misfit toys, a place for the slightly lost or someone searching for who they really are," he added. "This is the magic of Foxx Lounge and it is what we love most. No one should ever be distanced they should accepted embraced and proper up for success."

Like everyone else, Heath doesn't know what the future holds.  

"With the uncertainty of the business world, we honestly do not know where we are going, but the plan is to reopen in a better climate when there can be a chance for real socializing, human contact and all the great times a rock club owned by the Heath family is suppose to offer," he added. 

Gillian Dorella, who helped organize more than 100 shows at The Foxx dating back to 2016 and who was a familiar sight at the door, called the news "heartbreaking."

When some bands would come into Barrie from out of town, Dorella said they'd be blown away by the family vibe, from Heath and his wife, right on down the line.

"Some people might go to certain venues, but the owners aren't there," Dorella told BarrieToday. "In our music community, everyone who comes into The Foxx feels at home.

"It's like Cheers for the punk community. This is a scene I've always loved being in," she added. "If you're having a bad day, you can always go to The Foxx and friends from the music community will be there. It's an outlet for all of us."

On any given night, it could be a touring punk band on the bill, a local group, or just an easy-going jam session. 

Dorella had been charged with booking bands and taking care of the club's calendar, but everything is up in the air for now. 

"We don't know how long this is going to last for," she said. "I still have bands and shows in motion, but everyone's at a standstill. It's a confusing and emotional time. ... We don't even know if we're going to have any shows in 2020. It's already May and this is when all of these American bands start coming out on tour."

The downtown Barrie venue hosted several well-known bands during its run, while also fostering numerous Barrie-area musicians.

Some of the bands to come through in recent years have included Dayglo Abortions, Dead Tired, Random Killing, Armed & Hammered, and Black Tongue, not to mention a two-night stand featuring the Cancer Bats and Flatliners together on the same bill in September 2018. 

"I saw our whole community come together and be really excited about that," Dorella said of the Cancer Bats/Flatliners show, which she described as one of her favourite shows ever at The Foxx.

"But also just being there on jam nights where everyone's very humble and relaxed, not in show mode," she added. "It was a lot of fun being around that, because we got to share moments, got to know each other a lot better and really become a family."

The Noolands is a Barrie-based band whose members cut their teeth at the club. 

"We've played shows all over Ontario and abroad, but The Foxx Lounge was a very special place," Brandon Davenport, who handles percussion, piano and vocals for the local band, told BarrieToday

"Not only did we play many shows there, but it was the centre of our universe stretching back half a decade when our band was formed, and even further back," he added. "You could say our friendships and our band was formed inside the venue."

Davenport figures the band played around 40 shows at The Foxx, not including side projects and jam sessions.

"It was less of a 'venue' to us and more of a home where a lot of our music was created," he said. 

After scrolling through social media, Davenport said a lot of Foxx memories came flooding back. 

"It's a fact that our band would not be where it is if it wasn't for this venue and the incredible people inside of it," he said. "We realized The Foxx isn't contained inside those venue walls. It's still with everyone and the scene they've helped create is a strong one."

Davenport called it the "lifeline" of Barrie's indie music scene across several genres. 

"It was the place you could see headlining acts on a weekend, but also see a new band be formed at jam night on a Wednesday," he said. "It was unlike any other venue and the thousands of people that flowed in and out of there over the years are all still connected. They call it a family and we would agree with that statement."

Davenport said news of Foxx's indefinite hiatus almost didn't seem real at first, but it didn't take long for the reality to sink in, either. He says his initial feeling was sadness, and the closure will leave a hole in the community. 

"We know The Foxx spirit remains strong and it's more important than ever for artists and bands to stay focused on their music and continue recording and releasing, because when the time comes, we will be ready for a new chapter," he said. 

Despite this week's announcement, Dorella also holds onto hope. 

"I just hope that we can find a new home where everyone can feel the love again," she said. "Our friends are our community. Our music scene is really heartbroken right now, so I just want people to know this is not the end."

— With files from Shawn Gibson

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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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