04 Oct Venue Spotlight: The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink
The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink is one of Edmonton’s newest multi-performance venues, featuring a wide variety of art, great food, tasty cocktails, welcoming staff, and a blank canvas with which you can create your own experience.
UP+DT’s Lindsey Locke sat down with Kris Harvey, the mind of which The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink originated. Kris explains the inspiration behind Chvrch, what makes it so unique to Edmonton, and how you can become a part of this ever-growing community.
Lindsey: Where did the idea of The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink come from?
Kris: It came a couple of ways. I’ve always wanted to open a hospitality business since I was 17-years-old. The whole idea was to create something cool and interesting with which to educate people in our city… With this space, where we are located – the corner of 103 and 103 – across from the billion dollar Ice District, I felt that there was an opportunity to do something really “Edmonton”.
When I grew up, my grandparents… They were Christian and they built church, even though my grandmother was from a Hindu background and my grandfather was from a Muslim background. Coming to Canada, they’d already been converted Christians. To be East Indian in the 50s and 60s in Alberta was a rarity, but creating church allowed them to create community.
The coolest thing about church wasn’t even the physical act of going to church, but being at my grandparents’ house for tea. There were about 20-something first cousins, aunts, uncles, foster kids… There was usually a minimum of 10-15 people at their house during the week and 30-40 on Sundays in the afternoons after church. It was about community and common-minded people coming together. Our congregations were in basements because there was so much space. Until my grandparents built their own churches, it was always held in these shared spaces. I saw this as a place where we could create a church environment – a haven from everything else, a place that is separated from reality.
Roots don’t have to be in religion or spirituality. That’s what I found this city can use more of… More soul.
Whether you’re here for an hour or three hours a week or everyday, you take those ideas – music, spirits, food, community, performing arts, painting – you take those ideas back out into the community for the rest of the week. That’s why I like the idea of church and paying homage to my grandparents. I think we can do it here for sure.
Lindsey: Can you explain how you came up with the name?
Kris: Church is spelled “Chvrch”. If you look at our symbolism, whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Atheist – whatever it may be – it’s not about “this” being right. It’s about coming together over things we do care about. I thought a great way to represent this was with the “V” because in Latin, there was no “U”. We thought we’d show it as being a Latin-based ideology rather than anything else. It’s about the bigger idea of community.
John is from the song, “John the Revelator”. It was first recorded in 1930 by Blind Willie Johnson – a hymn/blues song. It’s talking about, when you have strife, who’s gonna help you out/lead you? John the Revelator. Most people interpret it to be John the Baptist. The song has been covered by artists from Nick Cave to The White Stripes. It is especially popular in the south – it’s a real cultural song. I first heard it by Depeche Mode in 2000, and they’re completely Nihilist and Atheist. Hearing it in the Depeche Mode way is beautiful but it’s also on a different side. They view John the Revelator as a street preacher… Looking into the story and not just gospel. What I thought was really cool was not just Depeche Mode having this opinion and that being correct, or Blind Willie Johnson performing it, saying, “No – this is the right way”. We can appreciate the art, where we won’t know until we’ve passed, what is right or what is truth… but in our experience in our time on Earth. It doesn’t matter what you are – it’s about supporting each other and educating people… Sharing in the art and the things that develop from it.
Lindsey: Can you describe the type of venue that you are?
Kris: I guess there’s a couple different parts to this. Anyone can build four walls. Anyone can build a space. Amazing things can be built. At the end of the day, it’s what we do within those walls that creates spirit and soul.
We’ve been celebrated as a cocktail bar, but we’re more than that. It’s about the live art. People talk about us being the newest music venue, but we aren’t just a music venue. We do burlesque, MINBID has their art battles, there are DJs… It’s this contemporary culture that we feel could use a little bit more exposure that we strive to feature.
It really come down to, in my opinion, the people that are here and sharing in the experiences that gives that vibe and atmosphere. One thing that we are really stoked about is that we don’t have a history. People come in here not knowing what to expect, but we’re able to break down barriers and showcase really cool people in this city. We’re not necessarily going to be for everybody, but we hope that people come here and have a really great experience.
Lindsey: What is the most memorable piece of feedback that you’ve received so far?
Kris: One of the best compliments that I’ve gotten about Chvrch so far was after a fashion show – I woke up to a Facebook post that read, “I woke up in a panic, only to realize we were in Edmonton. Last night, I went to sleep not feeling that I was in Edmonton.” You can really feel like you are somewhere else when you are here.
Lindsey: How would you describe the theme? The black walls, etc.?
Kris: It is all inspired by the places we go to. Two of my favourite places in the world are Austin, Texas and Berlin, Germany. In this neighbourhood we are in, we need things with more soul as more condos are built. It’s more about creating the atmosphere that people don’t feel in Edmonton. We want to be dynamic. In general, we spend thousands of dollars to travel and see these cities… Reykjavik, Portland… But we can do that here in Edmonton. I think Edmonton’s amazing and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs. We (The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink) are a place that could exist in Austin or Berlin.
Black is a clean slate. We are always reinventing and making Chvrch an always-changing space, whether it is a birthday party, cocktail club, or concert space.
Lindsey: It’s been about 9 months since you’ve been open. What are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned?
Kris: I learn everyday – make mistakes everyday. I’m not the best entrepreneur that’s existed. We try to be dynamic in our structure. We are very open minded. People may have an opinion or perception of what we do. There’s people that come here for burlesque, live music, to dance, and even for the food. We recognize that we are all people… All people who want to make Edmonton really great.
Lindsey: Do you have any big goals in the next year?
Kris: I want to continue to work with really great partners. UP+DT is something that we are excited to be a part of. From Jason’s idea all the way to massive team putting it on… That’s how we make Edmonton really good. It’s touching more people. Our goal is to keep collaborating with great partners and reaching more people.
We’re super open to exposing more artists. We have busking on the street as long as the weather permits – having people out there singing and performing. It creates a cool environment for not only our business, but outside as well. Anybody who’s interested, send us a message on Facebook! We want to showcase what Edmonton has to offer!
UP+DT is thrilled to have The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink on-board for #UPDT16! You can catch HUMANS and Max Ulis here on Saturday, October 8th from 9pm – 2:30am!
Visit The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink
Tuesday: 6pm – late
Thursday – Saturday: 6pm – late
Open on most concert days
10260 103 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0Y8
Connect with The Chvrch of John Eat+Drink