2 min

Stereo nightclub fire was arson, police say

Montreal venue was set to reopen Labour Day weekend

SET ABLAZE. Stereo's façade was visibly damaged by the fire, as seen in this picture taken around 8:40am on Sep 1. Credit: Yan De Repentigny photo

Electronic music lovers of all stripes woke up to a sadly familiar tune today, as unconfirmed reports of an early morning fire at legendary afterhours club Stereo, located in the city’s Gay Village, began trickling in.

Suspicions of arson in this third blaze for Stereo’s hapless management were soon confirmed by Montreal police, who found accelerants in the debris. No one was injured in the fire.

The famed afterhours establishment, which last went up in flames back in July 2008 and had taken over a year to rebuild from the ground up, was set to reopen this coming Labour Day weekend with a lavish, highly anticipated five-day extravaganza featuring world-renowned DJ names like Roger Sanchez, Deep Dish’s Sharam and Stereo’s sonic pioneer Angel Moraes.

“I’m utterly shocked,” says Bernard Plante, director general of the Gay Village’s Merchants Association (SDC du Village). “I know people who have expressly refused to go clubbing over the past year in the absence of Stereo. I can only imagine how immensely disappointed all of the city’s electronic aficionados, both gay and straight are feeling right now.”

While some may roll their eyes at such a seemingly romanticized assertion, it falls in line with the unanimously effusive praise both Montreal’s gay and electronic music communities have reserved for Stereo over its decade in operation. Since opening back in October 1998, Stereo boasted an unmatched reputation in the city, with its consistently stellar lineup of guest and resident DJs, its first-rate, custom-made sound system and a cult-like reputation among dance music purists that made big waves on the international club circuit.

“I travel quite a bit,” said Plante, “and whether I’d be in Ibiza or New York, as soon as I’d mention that I’m from Montreal, Stereo would always be the best icebreaker to any conversation. It was our city’s answer to Studio 54, and I had never witnessed such unparalleled enthusiasm for a club. It was extremely well-known and everyone was very much looking forward to its reopening.”

Soon after initial news reports confirmed the fire, the Montreal blogosphere wasted no time speculating about the crime’s perpetrators. Many fingers were quickly pointed in the direction of Circus, the city’s only remaining afterhours, leading the club’s management to respond to the accusations with a release offering words of encouragement to Stereo’s dauntless team and denying all hearsay.

While Stereo’s management has not yet issued a statement regarding the fate of this weekend’s highly anticipated celebrations, Plante remains hopeful that the club will reopen.

“It seems as though businesses on either side of Stereo were not affected whatsoever by the fire, which is a good sign,” he says. “The damages are apparently limited to the venue’s façade, and not the dance floor or pricey equipment. So, fingers crossed.”

For the many who’ve held their breath for the return of Stereo’s unforgettable nights, the waiting just got a little longer.