The first ever Troubadour Series in Oshawa started in late August and just wrapped up but may be something the City can look forward to as an annual event.
The series took place downtown Oshawa where performers brought live music to restaurant patios to enhance the outdoor dining experience.
The idea came from Jeff Davis, who was working at Top Corner Grill, who then approached city councillor Rick Kerr.
“He asked whether or not we could take the Top Corner patio out of storage and onto Ontario Street because it might be a way to help improve square footage for that business because of COVID,” said Kerr.
The event ran for eight weeks with the goal to create traction for small businesses and to add arts and culture to the community.
Musicians were paid to play their music on street corners as a safe way to bring joy to five downtown restaurant patios during the pandemic.
Davis said he wondered if having a busker perform for patrons would be beneficial to the community.
“I thought this idea had terrific merit, but I said why would we restrict this only to Top Corner? Why don’t we try to get all the live outdoor patios involved?” said Kerr. “He (Davis) thought that was a terrific idea, too…so we canvassed five venues.”
Kerr and Davis asked local businesses including Avanti Trattoria, Brew Wizards, Stag’s Head, Top Corner Grill, and Wendel Clark’s which all agreed to the initiative.
The Business Improvement Area (BIA) agreed to provide sponsorship money alongside the CEO of Renovation and Design who also helped financially, according to Kerr.
“That meant we had a guaranteed pool of money, every single penny of that money went to the musicians,” said Kerr. “The venues had no cost, no electrical outlay, and they didn’t have to worry about getting insurance.”
Artists were chosen through recommendations and given to Kerr and participating organizations – making sure all acts were local.
All music was scheduled by Adam Kunz and each performer made $100 a night plus what they managed to acquire in tips.
Although this event was put together on short notice, one of the venues reported doubling its beer sales the first night alone.
Kerr credits the warm ending of summer to such a boom in business.
“This is a direct economic impact initiative, it brings people downtown…by doing it on an ongoing basis, you create a vibe,” said Kerr.
The pandemic changed the way an event like this would normally run, but that hasn’t stopped Kerr from planning for next year.
However, he wants to find additional means to promote the series.
“It got to the point where the musicians themselves were sharing on their Facebook page,” said Kerr. “Maybe we could do things through the region of Durham, through economic development and tourism…and find additional ways to get the word out.”
The expectation for next year is to run the event all patio season but won’t go as long into the fall as this year.
“This was a pilot project, it worked really well…we’re doing a survey on it and the goal is to acquire some kind of a provincial arts and culture grant for next summer.”