Downtown London - News

January 2019

  • London Music Hall embracing change inside and out

    January 11, 2019

    London Music Hall embracing change inside and out


    By Sean Meyer


    Even as Mike Manuel deals with the latest renovation to London Music Hall, he is looking forward to a brighter future for not only his pair of venues, but that of the entire downtown as well.


    Mike opened Rum Runners (176 Dundas St.) in 2004 and what is now called London Music Hall (185 Queens Ave.) the next year in 2005.


    “Funny enough, when I started in 2004, I liked the name Rum Runners and I like the name The Music Hall, it wasn’t London Music Hall back then, so I didn’t know which to pick and I didn’t want to lose either, so I called it Rum Runners Music Hall. I got it both ways. And then it went from there,” he said. “There was a lot of pain and suffering the first couple years. You would go a month or two without a booking and wonder what you’re doing. We resisted the urge of turning it into a nightly or weekly club and that’s paid off.”


    His vision for the two venues remains the same today as it did all those years ago.


    Rum Runners was launched as a venue, which it still is — although Mike jokes some people still think it’s a night club — because as a teenager he would be “going out on the scene,” and he saw first-hand how spaces for live music were an issue.


    To address this, he would eventually take the property, which at one time had existed as Cosmo City, and repositioned it as an open space for whatever people wanted to rent it for. While “extremely happy" with his new venue, Mike saw the building’s capacity of 400-500 people, was no longer enough for some shows.


    With that in mind, and with more space to convert, he began working towards launching the music hall. With the success of London Music Hall (capacity 1,600), Mike — although it was a few years down the road — began looking to see what might be next.


    Last November, however, he began to see another opportunity opening up.


    In fact, he recalls standing on the floor of the music hall, looking out from the stage, and envisioning a new future. That vision included premium seating and a new level of experience for those looking for something more personal inside a building known, and celebrated, as a general admission venue.


    While the renovation will be finished in early 2019, Mike is quick to thank his family (his wife Vicki, along with sons Demetri, George and Richard) and all of his 110 full and part-time staff members — Jacky El-chaer and Brandon Eedy, in particular — for making today’s success even possible.


    Mike is also quick to credit his success the past 14 or so years to working hard every day — not to mention being on hand to shake hands with patrons after every show — but he is also quick to acknowledge it’s important to sometimes not be at work too.


    Whether that is taking vacation with Vicki, spending time with his grandkids, or sampling the latest downtown restaurant, Mike said making time for friends and family is an essential part of his life.


    Something else nearly as important to him is the future of the downtown.


    “Nothing happens overnight. What we did didn’t happen overnight; we had many sleepless nights over the past 16 years. But I’m excited for where we are going in the downtown,” Mike said. “I’m a huge supporter of what’s happening on Dundas Street now. I am in touch with contractors all the time, the city . . . it is very needed. If we want to see growth, we have to fix our infrastructure underground. It has to happen.”


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