Bruce Wine Bar – Venue With A Vision

A restaurant or bar that provides live music can approach it from a number of different ways. It can range from quiet atmospheric dinner music to generic rock, billed as Live Music Tonight.  Bruce Wine Bar in Thornbury stands out as a unique venue for several reasons.

Steven Vipond follows his own taste in the music he books

The main difference is that the music booker at the wine bar is also the owner, and his choice of bookings springs from his love of live music.  Steven Vipond has become one of the most important music promoters in the area in the last few years and Bruce Wine Bar is simultaneously a welcoming haven for touring musicians and a stage for local talents to develop.

The talents of Jen Vipond and Shaun Edmonstone ensure that The Bruce Wine Bar is more than a great music venue

Steven is actually co-owner of Bruce Wine Bar, with his wife Jen and their head chef Shaun Edmonstone.  It’s an ideal example of a team in which each member plays to their strength and the result is not only a viable business but a night spot that satisfies patrons on all fronts.  Jen Vipond manages the place ensuring a quality experience for anyone who comes for the music, the food or just a glass of fine wine.  Shawn ensures that the menu provides tasty and and interesting variety.  And that leaves Steven free to pursue his passion for music.  Everybody wins in a setup like that.  Especially the patrons.

Steven is particularly fond of original music.  That’s the focus of the Wednesday night jams hosted by Drew McIvor and of the touring artists who come to play Thursdays through Saturdays.  It can be a fine balancing act to present original singer-songwriters consistently and make it pay.  Bruce Wine Bar formula is to have the performances divided into two dinner shows, at 7 and 9, with reservations required.  The dinners pay for the music and ensure that Steven can book according to his tastes.

Steven and Jen settled here about seven years ago, like so many people in the area, to start something new in a beautiful setting.  They weren’t sure what they were going to do, but they knew they would do something.  He’d given up his contracting business, let his crew go, and she quit her marketing job.  The idea of the wine bar was just to have a little place where someone could enjoy a glass of wine and fresh bread.  Music was pretty much an afterthought.  But it has grown.

First there was the house concert.  He’d been renovating a house and thought it would be cool to have a night of live music there, so he did. That first show was hosted by Romney Getty and Craig Smith and the guest artist was local musician Tim Irvine.  Then he finished the house and sold it.  But he continued the tradition in his new house, now known as The Bruce Street Social Club.  It functions sporadically in conjunction with the wine bar, which has a consistent schedule of live music.

At first Steve booked local talent and then he began to branch out and bring in touring artists.  Now he gets several emails a week from artists wanting to make Thornbury a stop on their tour.  He loves to hear the acts he brings in. “I feel guilty if I’m not here to greet them and make them welcome,” he says.

The Wednesday open mic is hosted by Meaford’s Drew McIvor and it has become a catalyst for the development of some exceptional local talent.  Drew himself is exceptional, not only as a songwriter but as a performer.  “He should be famous,” Steven says.  Drew’s professionalism attracts jammers of equivalent talent along with newcomers who welcome the opportunity to develop their performance skills in a nurturing environment.  The jam at The Bruce is particularly known for its emphasis on original music, and often it brings in the biggest audience of the week.

Recently Steven and Jen took their core staff to Chicago with the intent of getting away from the day to day business to discuss a new venture.  They have been talking for some time about opening up another venue and the Chicago sojourn was about how to turn it into a reality.  They began every day with brainstorming meetings.  The new Venue is going to be where the Casbah used to be near the old train station in Collingwood, and Steven already has a clear idea of how the music is going to work, five nights a week.  Tuesday will be listening night – with “shush cards” on the table.  Wednesday is residency night, where a developing artist or band will have a chance to build an audience or work up a recording session by playing the same venue several weeks in a row. Thursday is open mic (hosted by Craig Smith).  Friday and Saturday will be the touring acts.  And, like the wine bar, it will all be about original music, no juke box cover bands.  It’s to be called The Old Crow, and they hope to open it in May, so that they will be in full swing in time to participate in the Peak To Shore Festival that looks to be a highlight of the summer.

With The Bruce Wine Bar a viable business, and a new venue in the works, Steven is ready to take another risk with a soft-seater concert.  He’ll be presenting Blackie And The Rodeo Kings at The Gayety Theatre in Collingwood.  This acclaimed roots band has been in existence for a long time, and it is comprised of players whose collective history stretches back even further to the eighties.  Tickets are selling well for the show, which is just a few weeks away on Sunday, February 26 at 8 PM.  They can be purchased online at

Steve Vipond is bringing Blackie and The Rodeo Kings to The Gayety Theatre

To have the vision of an entrepreneurial music lover combined with savvy business partners is a real boon for local live music fans as well as performers.   It is another factor in the development of Southern Georgian Bay as a centre of live music.

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One Response to Bruce Wine Bar – Venue With A Vision

  1. Gillian says:

    I spent 3 years in Wolfville, NS, where musicians played at the weekly Market and, in addition to pubs like Paddy’s, there was a weekly music venue called Night Kitchen, but I think this area has surpassed Wolfville for original live music. Wow.

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