Dance the night away, Ottawa: All-night venue changing city's downtown vibe
White Rabbit dance parties are bringing house and techno music back to the golden days, but it wasn't easy to get going because of city bylaws.
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Anyone who still says Ottawa is a boring town hasn't been up all night with Rick Laplante.
The Ottawa DJ and promoter's monthly all-night White Rabbit dance parties are bringing house and techno music back to the golden days – when DJs would play for hours and hours – from sunset through sunrise, taking patrons on a true musical journey that spans multiple genres, moods and atmospheres.
“What we get with the 11 p.m. to 6 am. is the extended sets. We get an environment in which house music is supposed to be consumed,” says Laplante, owner of Framework Music and the brainchild behind the nocturnal parties, the September edition of which is set for Friday.
“With the extended hours, we have the opportunity to give our headliners three to four hours and really take people on that musical journey, which is what house music is really about.”
While afterhours clubs are hard to avoid in places like Montreal or Toronto, Ottawa hasn't seen a consistent, legitimate, legal late-night dance club for close to a decade. That's partly because the city implemented an All Night Dance Event Licence for events that provide live or pre-recorded music from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The by-laws goes on to say that “these events are commonly referred to as “raves.” The complexity of this by-law is enough to make even the owner of Amnesia Ibiza not bother, but for City at Night owner Farid Dagher, the monthly health, fire and safety code inspections are well worth the trouble of creating a magical electronic music night in sleepy Ottawa.
“It's a lot of work, but it brings something special to the scene,” adds Dagher, who took over the former Lotus nightclub in June of last year.
“People really appreciate it. Electronic music is something that you need to experience in a longer period of time. A lot of people will go out for a couple of hours, but sometimes you need to be on the dance floor for more than that to be part of uplifting quality of techno.”
And with an all-night dance club comes a swimming pool of stigma, mostly spinning around the relationship between drugs and dance music. But while many would look at an all-night dance club as a drug haven, Dagher and Laplante both say that couldn't be farther from the truth. The White Rabbit parties that Laplante throw aren't packed with drugged-up dance zombies, but rather industry staff and overall electronic music aficionados who really just love the music. Plus, one could argue that hosting a late-night crowd in a club with rigorous inspections, security regulations and first aid actually makes for a safer environment than an abandoned warehouse in the boonies.
“We take every measure possible to ensure we have a safe and appropriate environment,” adds Dagher. “We wouldn't want the stigma, or something else to compromise the rest of our business. Everything is thought of from a to z to make sure that people are safe and that people look at this positively.”
Aside from the strict requirements that keep events like these in check, Laplante says it's also the people these events attract who, “protect it,” as they know how rare it is to have an all-night dance party in Ottawa.
“The stigma, I think is unfairly applied, says Laplante.
“House music has been out of the rave scene for so long now. It has been permanently installed in clubs. They are safer venues, they are licenced, they are all up to code. Ultimately, we are just extending our dancing hours by three hours – form 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.”
Laplante has been making souls dance through the wee hours since February at City at Night, and they have yet to see any problems, be it drug abuse or health-code violation.
The Friday, Sept. 29 party will see Laplante himself in the headlining slot, as he mans the 1s and 2s for his birthday bash, alongside resident DJs Tone A, Brink and Sully, who will keep you moving until you're finally ready for bed – at 6 a.m. Bring your jammies.