On Saturday I wrote about Café Cleopatra’s last stand on the lower Main. After refusing to sell his property to the Société de Développement Angus, the owner, John Zoumboulakis, is being threatened with expropriation to make way for the Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent.
I was finally able to reach the showbusiness-man past midnight on Sunday in order to get his perspective of the story.
For Zoumboulakis, Café Cleopatra is the last vestige of a long tradition of wild nights on the Main. “This is a historic part of our city. It should be restored, revitalized, not just bulldozed. History, once you break it down, you don’t bring it back with an office tower. What we have now is the real thing. Its our heritage, it’s part of our history,” he says. “I hope there is a way to preserve it.”
Over the phone, he spoke nostalgically of a time when the lower Main was lively and diverse. “It was the first entertainment centre of our city. It was the nightlife and the downtown of Montreal,” he says “…every building, it was owned by a different people with different ideas. And each operator or owner, they used to have their own types.”
“The objective is to continue to offer what I’ve been offering and what this location has been offering to Montreal for a hundred or so years,” Zoumboulakis says.
When I mentioned the possibility of relocating, he only said that he hadn’t put any energy into thinking about that but he did quote that old adage, the show must go on.
Zoumboulakis says that he never got involved in negotiations with the SDA. “No offer was put on the table. The reality is that they never put anything on paper. Maybe because they are of the opinion that if the city can throw you out, why make you an offer,” he says.
In this case, is legal for the city to expropriate because the property is within the Quartier des Spectacles, defined by a Plan Particulier d’Urbanisme.
Yet Zoumboulakis is skeptical of the QDS, an entertainment district, putting office towers and retail space – all owned by a single developer – where independent venues once stood.
“What the city’s doing, what they’re trying to do, it’s not the right thing for the Main,” he says.