Ottawa’s famous Zaphod Beeblebrox bar closing after 26 years

Zaphod Beeblebrox
Mostly, when people think of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, they think of landmarks like the parliament buildings or the Rideau Canal, the longest skating rink in the world. The city’s not really famous for its nightlife. However, one venue has managed to shine through for decades and has become an institution in the eyes of many. Zaphod Beeblebrox is the small bar in question.

The bar’s name comes from a character from Douglas Adams’ novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is famous for its live music, black light, inclusiveness, galactic-theme decor and exotic cocktails like the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Sadly, though, after 26 years in business, the bar will close its doors for the last time.

Rumors about the bar’s closure had been spreading among patrons for a while. Furthermore, during the latest edition of Zaphod’s Sunday night Trailer Park Bingo, customers found out about the news according to The Powergoats band member Jamie Douglas. However, the bad news was made official on Wednesday through Zaphod’s Facebook page.

The detailed statement included what the business hoped it had achieved, the overarching philosophy behind the bar and tons of gratitude for everyone involved in its success over the years from the staff to the artists to the patrons. And, of course, it gave the reason for the closure.

“These are uncertain economic times and we have struggled to avoid a decision that will affect so many lives: that on May 14th, 2017 Zaphod Beeblebrox will close its doors for the last time.”

The bar opened on Rideau Street in 1989 by Eugene Haslam. He has since become somewhat of an icon in the community. When Bell Canada purchased the club’s property for its facilities, the business moved to York Street in Ottawa’s ByWard Market in 1992 where it’s been ever since. However, after more than two decades of ownership, Haslam sold the business to a former staff member in 2015.

At its core, Zaphod Beeblebrox has always tried to distinguish itself from other clubs. On the weekend, during Saturday’s famous Electric Ballroom night with DJ Floodzi for instance, they play an eclectic mix of mostly alternative music with some metal and rap added for good measure. Other special nights have included Industrial Strength Tuesdays, showcasing heavy metal, as well as Full Flavor Thursdays, catering to the Hip Hop and R&B fans. But, above all, people know it for the live music venue. It has hosted acts like Alanis Morissette, Jewel and Nickelback along with countless other artists. The Rolling Stones even shot a music video there in 2005 for the song ‘Streets of Love’.

What’s so magical about the place, though, is the passion people feel toward it. You get a sense that it’s not just a typical bar, but something more.

“It’s my home,” says Emilie Swaine, a long-time patron. “There was a moment of silence when the news broke. It was a safe space and home to many lost souls. By the end of the night, you got to know strangers, made new friends and the staff always welcomed you back.”

Zaphod Beeblebrox ‘is the best bar in town’

Matt Reid, another regular, had similar thoughts. “I moved to Toronto a few years ago, but I still come up to Ottawa roughly once a month. And every time I come up, I make sure to stop by Zaphod’s with my buddies that still live in the city. It’s just assumed I’m going there; it’s the best bar in town.”

Though that’s not necessarily the consensus for Ottawa as a whole, many loyal customers share the sentiment, ones that are devastated to see it go. Many have fond memories, and there will definitely be a void.

Here is the official Zaphod’s Philosophy that was posted within the Zaphod Beeblebrox bar and on the website:

  • No racism
  • No aggression
  • No gender bias
  • Entertain and enlighten
  • No attitude or pretensions
  • Fair prices and fair measures
  • A musical and social alternative
  • Friendly staff and fast courteous service
  • Respecting our audience and gaining their respect
  • All our guests, especially women, should feel comfortable and safe here

About author

Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 270 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.