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Photo courtesy Sebastian Buzzalino

The King Eddy Hotel is back in the blues business

By Thomas Johnson, July 4 2018 

Another live music venue is coming to Calgary this summer.

The King Edward Hotel has sat abandoned for the better part of 15 years. Now, as a part of the East Village revitalization project, the historic milieu will be returned to its former glory alongside the National Music Centre.

“We always knew we would open it on a permanent basis and bring music back on a permanent basis. We felt the time was right now, in 2018,” says NMC president and CEO Andrew Mosker. “We’re excited to be bringing music back to the King Eddy.”

One Calgary’s oldest bars, the King Eddy was built between 1905 and 1910 as one of the original “Whiskey Row” hotels on Ninth Ave. SE. Its colourful history includes multiple busts during prohibition and the distinct honour of being Calgary’s first establishment to do away with separate rooms for black and white patrons. During the ‘70s, the Eddy’s direction pivoted to live music, where it developed a reputation as Calgary’s go-to blues bar, a prestige that continued through the ‘80s and ‘90s before closing its doors in 2004.

Reviving the Eddy was a priority linked to the construction of the NMC.

“The entire NMC at Studio Bell was built on-site because the King Eddy was there. It was a very important and strategic decision many years ago when we decided to build the NMC,” Mosker says. “We wanted it to live on a site that had a connection to Calgary’s music story.”

As construction for the NMC began in 2013, plans for reintegrating the King Eddy had been gestating for some years. Decorated Portland architect Brad Cloepfil was hired in 2009 with the hopes of incorporating the landmark into the modern superstructure.

The original vision of the NMC was to be on the King Eddy and incorporated the existing hotel into a new design built around it — in this case over it,” says Mosker. “We hired an architect that understood that and really appreciated the value.”

Starting July 6, the King Eddy will run a 10-day live music series, with the official re-opening as a permanent venue and restaurant slated for July 20.

“If you’re an artist from anywhere, we want the King Eddy to have the reputation as a must-play venue,” Mosker says. “And if you’re a music fan, or someone interested in visiting authentic places, then it’s a must-see venue for visitors. Those are two of the goals for the Eddy.”

Part of what we do is tell stories about music in Canada, and the King Eddy is a story of music in Calgary. Part of telling that story was bringing back live music. It was always our plan to do that.”

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