Site Analysis – Ivy Bar + Kitchen There are very few locations within

Site Analysis – Ivy Bar + Kitchen
There are very few locations within the Halton region which provide a nightlife experience and it
is even more difficult to find a location that caters to an older demographic without attracting the
typical university crowd that spans 19 – 25. Approximately 18 months, Ivy Bar + Kitchen opened in
Burlington, Ontario in an attempt to fill this void. As someone who lives in the area and having never
been to the location myself, I thought that through this Site Analysis, I could explore the ways in which
sound and music within a nightlife setting contextualizes space based not only on age and
socioeconomic factors, but also race.
Ivy Bar + Kitchen is located at 3330 South Service Road, just south of the Queen Elizabeth Way,
in a predominately commercial and industrial area but despite this area, it is situated in and near
evidently affluent and visibly Caucasian suburbs It is directly located within Burlington whose Caucasian
population is approximately 91.04% (Statistics Canada 2006). Just twenty minutes from there is Oakville
whose Caucasian population is 81.2% and who has a median household income of $110,723 (Statistics
Canada 2006). It is however this proximity to suburban living thatit finds itself in a less residential area,
as the noise coming from the building into the early hours of the morning would be deemed obtrusive.
As Cockayne states, “common noises associated with urban living…were not easily preventable…All the
authorities could do realistically try to deal with were those continual sources of noise” (114). This,
therefore, was accomplished by putting the bar in the ‘outskirts’ of the cities, where there was already a
multitude of noise coming from the highway.
Though not a remarkably historic site, the building was previously occupied by other tenants:
specifically a bar called Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge. Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge was a bar and nightclub
that specialized in the playing of current and popular Top 40’s and dance music as well as advertised
events that offered discounted cover charges and drinks. Unlike Ivy Bar + Kitchen, it did not offer a
dining experience, rather opting for a large dance floor in order to accommodate a greater dancing
experience and it was these factors that made it an ideal location for a younger, rowdier crowd. Not only
this, there was a greater propensity for various racial groups to mix and mingle.
Big Bucks closed in 2011 and new ownership took over the building, transforming the location
from dilapidated and rustic into chic and modern. In all aspects, the newly opened Ivy Bar + Kitchen
seeks to separate itself from the typical bar scene; instead, it tries to position itself as a mature lounge
room similar to what one might find in the nicer neighbourhoods of Toronto. It has changed the floor
plan completely, dedicating a majority of the space, first and foremost, to a comfortable dining
experience. The numerous chairs and booths are covered in fabric, indicating that its primary objectives
are not accommodate dancing and typical club behaviour (despite having two interior bars) and is
instead a place for adults to meet and enjoy each other’s company in a low key fashion. This is also
evident due to the fact that there was no designated dance floor and was instead created around 11pm
by moving the ‘celebration’ tables to one side.
I visited this location on a Saturday evening around 10pm with a group of friends to witness the
location in full swing and found ourselves waiting in line. With its close proximity to the QEW, one of the
most discernable sounds was the passing traffic as it sped by especially due to the lack of a sound wall
between Ivy and the highway but the longer we stood outside, it became more background noise under
the music that was emanating from within Ivy. Being able to hear the music that was being played inside
while having to wait outside made the wait more tolerable as it gave our group something to talk about
and allowed us to almost prepare ourselves for the night yet to come. Even as the doors opened to
permit those in front of us to enter, the shift in the music from being muffled to being clearly audible
increased our anticipation.
Once inside, after paying the $15 cover charge, I got to experience Ivy as it went through its
transition from a dining establishment to a ‘nightclub.’ The music that was being played had a very
consistent and driving beat that had already gotten a number of people to start milling around the bar
and dancing with each other despite the fact that the dance floor had not been formally opened yet. As
well, the lighting was remarkably dim with the exception of the stage lighting which swept the ‘dance
floor’ and pulsated to the rhythm of the music. Despite being unable to locate the speakers due to the
dim lighting, it seemed as though music was being pumped into the space from all directions and had a
cocooning effect, as it seemed to surround us completely.
As a group, we had decided to take a seat in the dining portion of the location that would
remain as such throughout the evening and attempted to order food before the dance floor open up
and there would be space to move. However, when the server did come over to speak to us, the music
was a disadvantage as it was almost impossible to hear what anyone was saying. It took numerous
repetitions by both the server and ourselves in order to fully understand the other and even my friends,
who were seated directly beside me, had issues even hearing what I was saying to them. Our inability to
hear each other forced us to lean in and essentially scream into each other’s ear, creating a seemingly
intimate interaction and as I observed the other patrons, it was clear that the volume of the music
seemed to both encourage and discourage talking. The sheer amplitude suggested that talking was not
the prime objective during this time of the night but if one was to talk to another person, it encouraged
close proximity to the listener’s body and even invited a physical interaction, whether it was during the
conversation or to even get the other’s attention. The only reprieve from this was to venture out to the
patio, where the music was markedly lower and encouraged more social activities such as smoking and
having full length and audible conversations.
Prior to going into Ivy, I was made aware of the fact that it specifically caters to an older
demographic so I thought that it would be important to gain insight from an older point of view from
someone who had been there previously. My father, Allan, is a 49 year African American male who lives
in Oakville and maintains a middle class lifestyle had gone to Ivy on an earlier day for dinner. The
interview was as follows:
Interview #1
1. Were you at Ivy Bar + Kitchen for both dinner and the nightlife scene that follows?
a. Yes.
2. How would you describe the music being played during both dinner and the subsequent
nightlife scene? Would you say there was a noticeable change in the music from dinner to the
a. Yes. It changed in tempo and in volume. During dinner, they played more of that new
age kind of stuff, kind of in the background but instrumental. I would say it was pretty
good, it created a little bit of an ambience that you were going out. There was no
particular artists, it was almost like Sirius XM.
3. What made you decide to come to Ivy?
a. The newness and the upscale demographic. It was more upscale than the normal
suburban supper club environment. Also because it was not a normal restaurant
4. In looking at the crowd, how would you describe them?
a. There was a market shift from dinner to the dancing. The dinner crowd was
somewhat older, about 35-45, then the club time was more 30-40 or 30-35. They
were fairly well-dressed: the men were in dress shirts and slacks, the women mostly
wore cocktail dresses. As I expected, it wasn’t a very diverse crowd, if I had to guess, I
would say I was maybe one of ten visible minorities, not including staff.
5. Why do you think the crowd is noticeably older than similar businesses?
a. How it’s marketed, I haven’t been to any of the younger places in a while but be it
ZuBar or any of the others, it markets itself quite differently. Also, it differs because it
does sell food.
6. Did you notice more artists akin to your generation that perhaps younger generations
wouldn’t recognize?
a. I wouldn’t say not recognize but I got the impression that there was more of an old
school vibe throughout the night, whereby the proportion of older music to current
music was slanted less than you would at a younger club. Often, I found myself
dancing along to songs that I remember from my 20s.
The clientele, I discovered during my visit, were as my father had suggested: much older than
myself and my friends, who ranged in age from 22-25, and remarkably well dressed with the men in
collared shirts, ties and dress pants, and the women more commonly in dresses and skirts. Not only well
dressed but wearing clothing and various brand names that others my age would not be able to afford.
The majority of those inside the location were middle aged and single as a number of them were not
wearing wedding rings and they seemed to be out in an attempt to find some kind of romantic
companionship. Those who seemed to already be in a marriage appeared to come in groups of friends in
an attempt to enjoy a night out with friends away from their home lives. Another very obvious feature
of the crowd was the fact that it was predominantly Caucasian.
The music specifically both reflected the age of the patrons and their ethnicities. While the DJ
did play some recognizable and more recent songs, often the music was skewed to please the older
people in the audience. I, myself, recognized a few of the older songs but did realize that a number of
my friends did not and that would often but a damper in our enjoyment of the music. As well, the music
did not venture outside anything mainstream. Often, there would be brief sound bites of mainstream
rap and hip hop from the late 80s or early 90s but nothing that was polarizing within the crowd and the
songs did not play for as long as the other pop and rock songs. Of the songs that did play, they appeared
to be songs that were created with the mainstream in mind as it is well known “within US rap culture,
artists and fans alike reflect an acute awareness that people in different parts of the country produce
and enjoy regional variations on the genre; they experience rap differently, structuring it into their social
patterns according to the norms that prevail in a given urban environment” (Forman 74). The songs
played were ones that glamourized and often satirized the rap and hip hop lifestyles that the artists are
around but none of the songs had a strong social commentary on what was going on in the actual urban
community because I believe that those kinds of songs do not resonate with those living in a
predominantly Caucasian suburban location. Suffice it to say, it is a very strong possibility that most
would not enjoy or appreciate hip hop for the reason that it “introduced new forms of expression that
were contextually linked to conditions in a city comprised of an amalgamation of neighbourhoods and
boroughs with their own highly particularised social norms and cultural nuances” and these would not
be understood by those who are privileged with living in an affluent neighbourhood (Forman 67).
As a member of the crowd, there were often times that I did feel discriminated against because
Ivy Bar + Kitchen did not cater specifically to me. They kept the crowd older by instituting not only a
strict dress code that might deter younger people from attending but they also have a 25+ age
requirement, though it appears as though that can be navigated if you come with a large enough group.
Besides this, it also was geared towards those who within a specific socioeconomic bracket. As
mentioned before, the cover charge was $15 and the menu items were priced similarly. Especially as an
African American woman, I found myself often uncomfortable in the setting because it often felt as
though I was the only one and was visibly out of place, despite growing up in the area, because they did
not cater the entertainment to those of a similar background.
I wish to quote Sara Cohen in closing: “Music thus plays a unique and often hidden or taken-forgranted role in the production of place. Through its peculiar nature it foregrounds the dynamic, sensual
aspects of this process, emphasizing, for example, the creation and performance of place through
human bodies and motion” (288). Based on my analysis of Ivy Bar + Kitchen, it is clear to see that she is
correct; the music has the ability to encourage intimate moments and interactions with people while
also being able to discourage the attendance of people that the establishment deems unworthy or unfit
and it is ever more believable the power that music and sound truly possesses.
Works Cited
Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge -
E. Cockayne – “Noisy” from Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 1600-1770 (Yale University
Press, 2007)
Ivy Bar + Kitchen -
M. Foreman – “Represent: Race, Space and Place in Rap Music”,Popular Music, Vol 19 (2000), No. 1, 6590.
S. Cohen – “Sounding Out the City: Music and the Sensuous Production of Place” from The Place of
Music, Leyshon, A., Matless, D., and Revill, G. (eds), New York: The Guilford Press, 1998.
Statistics Canada. 2007. Oakville, Ontario (Code3524001) (table). 2006 Community Profiles.
2006 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 92-591-XWE. Ottawa. Released March 13, 2007.
(accessed November 28, 2013).
Statistics Canada. 2007. Burlington, Ontario (Code3524002) (table). 2006 Community Profiles.
2006 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 92-591-XWE. Ottawa. Released March 13, 2007.
(accessed November 28, 2013).