Site Analysis – Ivy Bar + Kitchen

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 that it 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, many of whom may have just turned 19 and were now able to drink legally. Not only this, there was a greater propensity for various racial groups to mix and mingle (Appendix B).


The above image was drawn by Liege, labels were added by Tatiana Deans afterwards.

Big Bucks 1 Big Bucks 2

Both of the above photographs were taken from Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge’s website.

                 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. The exterior is painted a deep navy blue, almost black with the logo in contrasting white. 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.

IMG_1541 IMG_1547

The above photographs were taken by Tatiana Deans.

Ivy 1


Ivy 2 Ivy 3

The three above photographs were taken from Ivy Bar + Kitchen’s website and Facebook page.

                 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.

 IMG_1538 IMG_1540  

The above photographs were taken by Tatiana Deans.

                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. Others had similar issues, noting that the inability to hear one another affected their ability to order drinks properly, saying, “they gave me the wrong drink twice because they couldn’t understand what I was saying. It was so frustrating” (Appendix C). 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.           

                 The clientele, I discovered during my visit, were as many 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. This didn’t come as a shock to Allan who stated, “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” (Appendix A).

                  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. Stephanie, perhaps the youngest member in the crowd often found herself leaving the dance floor when a song that she didn’t recognize began to play, only returning when some musical familiarity was restored (Appendix C). Whereas Allan, who fit the age range of the club found that the music reflected him and his enjoyment better: “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” (Appendix A). 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-for-granted 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.


Appendix – Interviews

Appendix A

Interview #1 – Allan

Q) Were you at Ivy Bar + Kitchen for both dinner and the nightlife scene that follows?

A) Yes.

Q) 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 dancing?

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 were no particular artists; it was almost like Sirius XM.

Q) 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 environment.

Q) 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.

Q) 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.

Q) 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.

Appendix B

Interview #2 – Liege

Q) How old were you when you started going to Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge?

A) As soon as I hit 19 and I could get in without worrying about a fake ID.

Q) How would you describe the people/clientele who frequented Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge?

A) They were usually about 19-29 years old but as a whole, they’re difficult to describe because everyone was so different. People from so many different places, different skin colours and race, an equal mix of men and women, it was like a United Colours of Benetton ad. They were a rowdy bunch, the occasional fights and broken glasses but, I mean, that can be expected from younger people.

Q) What kind of music did they normally play there?

A) A bit of everything really: Top 40, Hip Hop, Dance.

Q) How did the music affect your experience at Big Buck’s, either positively or otherwise?

A) It was always positive. They played all the popular music, the Top 40s of that time and even some older ones. As long as I could dance to a beat, I would.

Q) Do you remember what the interior looked like?

A) Actually yeah, I could probably draw it for you:



Appendix C

Interview #3 – Stephanie

Q) What made you decide to come to Ivy tonight?

A) The girls and I thought it would be nice to have a night out to dance and we had heard from one of our coworkers who also works at Ivy that it was a fun place to be, especially on the weekends.

Q) Did you have any hesitations about coming here?

A) Well yes, everyone who I had spoken to about the fact that I was coming here told me that it’s a much older crowd and I wasn’t exactly sure if I was going to feel out of place. Plus my friends and I were really worried about the dress code because I had heard about people turned away at the door for not dressing appropriately and it’s, like, a $40 cab ride that would be terrible to take there and to not even get in

Q) After your night out, how would you describe the other clientele that you saw in there?

A) I would have agree with what everyone had told me about this place and how much older everyone was. I remember looking around and there wasn’t really anyone who was close to my age other than the people I came with. And we had reason to worry about our outfits because everyone was dressed up in, like, designer brands and stuff.

Q) What made you decide on the outfit you wore?

A) I thought a dress would be the least likely to get turned away based on the dress code. And my friends and I came to dance which usually means getting hot and sweaty and there’s nothing worse than being hot in jeans and a top.

Q) Speaking of music and dancing, what did you think of the music that played?

A) It was pretty good, they played a number of songs that I was familiar with but a lot of the time, a song would come on that I had never heard of before and it made me stop dancing. I like to sing along to the songs and if I don’t know the words, I really can’t sing along. During those songs, my friends and I would leave the dance floor to either get new drinks or use the washroom and wait for a familiar song to play before going back out.

Q) How did the music or the various other sounds ever affect your evening?

A) It was really loud in there, it was difficult hearing what people were trying to say. I went to order a drink and they gave me the wrong drink twice because they couldn’t understand what I was saying. It was so frustrating.

Q) Did you ever feel out of place amongst the crowd?

A) At times yes, just because I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person in the entire place, everyone else was 10-20 years older than me and if I had come by myself, I’m sure I would have been incredibly awkward in this crowd.


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, 65-90.

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).