Ottawa’s ‘legendary’ Zaphod Beeblebrox closing its doors

Closure ends a long saga of uncertainty for the Byward Market nightclub
Zaphod's
Photo by Phillip Tellis, via Flickr

Zaphod Beeblebrox, a staple of the ByWard Market for nearly three decades, will say goodbye later this month.

In a post on its website, the Ottawa nightclub and music venue thanked its faithful patrons for the fond memories, but said that “uncertain economic times” led to the decision to close its doors on May 14.

The announcement marks the end of a saga that began nearly three years ago when then-owner Eugene Haslam made a Facebook post alluding that he would be moving on from Zaphod’s.

“Goodbye. It’s time for another chapter in my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I have done so far,” he wrote in August 2014 without further explanation.

Eugene Haslam
Eugene Haslam, former owner of Zaphod Beeblebrox.

OBJ followed up with Mr. Haslam shortly after, when he explained that while he loved Zaphod’s, he had nonetheless become tired of running the nightclub he first launched at a location on Rideau Street in the early ’90s.

“We’ve got a great location, we’ve got a great club, we’ve got a historic club, almost legendary. It is legendary as far as I’m concerned,” he told OBJ then.

“I’m saying I’ve taken this weight off me and I’m handing it to the city, to the people of Ottawa. I’ve done for you, this for so long. You want it to continue? Go ahead. You figure it out.”

Mr. Haslam sold the location to one of his employees roughly a year later. He said he was hoping to spend more time with his family after suffering a stroke a few years ago.

The iconic nightclub persisted through a series of failed partnerships and ventures, including the short-lived Zaphod’s 2, nearby Barrymore’s Music Hall.

Zaphod Beeblebrox will have its own page in the Canadian music industry’s history books, as over the years the local venue hosted major acts such as Alanis Morissette and Nickelback. It even acted as the backdrop for a Rolling Stones music video in 2005.

Beyond high-profile gigs, Ms. Haslam’s vision for the club was as a safe space where people could come to dance and drink regardless of gender, sexuality, race or musical styles.

Years ago, when Mr. Haslam first toyed with the idea of closing Zaphod’s, he said it would be up to Ottawa residents to decide what the historic location means to them: Whether they would continue to patronize the establishment or let it fade into a bygone era.

“I’m asking the public to vote again,” he said then. “Many years ago, they voted when we first opened that this is what we wanted. We want to create a community place unlike anything else. I’m asking the community, ‘Do you give it a mandate again?’ Think about it. And not only just for its social aspect, but its musical aspect. What does it mean to you as a city?”