The Chvrch (read: church) of John, Edmonton’s latest arts and music venue, opened to the masses on Jan. 22, adding a little culture into the city’s up-and-coming Ice District.
Located in the basement of the Grand Hotel on 102 Avenue and 103 Street, The Chvrch of John joins a handful of new music spots set to revive Edmonton’s music scene after the loss of The Artery, Wunderbar, and other venues last year.
Live music isn’t The Chvrch of John’s only mission. Kris Harvey, operating partner of the venue, also wants to use the location as a community art space for everyone from painters and sculptors to tattoo and graffiti artists.
“We want to be able to collaborate with all these artists to give them the opportunity to showcase what they do,” Harvey said.
“We’re building up our community around arts and music, and socializing, and common ideas. It’s no different from other churches in town — they just use god and the gospel as their base root.”
True to its name, the space inside features biblically inspired street art on the walls, pews converted into booth seating, and prayer candles burning at the bars and tables. Even the staff members are fitted with priestly and puritan-style collars, adding an almost gothic flair to the sombre, 278-person-capacity space.
For Adaora Obiajunwa and others who attended opening night, the church theme was well received; but what stood out most to Obiajunwa was the drink list, and particularly the custom cocktails.
“They are surprisingly strong,” she said. “The price matches what you get.”
Some drinks, like the Smoked Manhattan, offer new twists on classic cocktails, said Jesse Werkman, a bartender with The Chvrch of John. His personal favorite, The Seven Seals, is a signature drink with many ingredients including cognac, lemon, and a splash of merlot.
“When you mix it all together, it’s a good comfort drink for when it’s really cold out,” he said.
Those looking to break bread, however, are limited to slimmer pickings: a daily meat or vegetarian sandwich and a Jacek chocolate plate for dessert.
Levi Christensen, a shift manager at Denizen Hall, located in the space above The Chvrch of John, was also present for the opening. A former owner of Wunderbar, Christensen said he is optimistic about The Chvrch of John, despite what he sees as a general lack of support for live music in Edmonton.
“People go out and they don’t realize that if they’re not drinking and not partying, they’re not really supporting the venue and then the venue can’t continue to support and pay for that music,” Christenson said.
Christensen says he’s confident that The Chvrch of John’s attention to mixology, music, and atmosphere will make it popular destination.
“I know Kris Harvey,” Christensen added. “And I know he’s going to be on point with the music.”
Photo by Hamdi Issawi.