This student-run gallery/bar is waiting to be discovered in the Plateau underground
It’s not until you make your way to the basement, past the greys and browns of a seemingly mundane building off of St. Laurent Boulevard, that you discover the magic of Fonzie’s Friday nights. The gallery and bar is filled with tables littered with candles while subtle, warm lighting soaks the space. A pink neon light boasts “Fonzie” confidently above a bar that is sure to charm your taste buds and excite your inner cocktail connoisseur.
Fonzie is owned and run by three Montreal students: Léo Audibert, a business student at Concordia, Théo Lafaurie, a business student at HEC, and Jules Delaage, a student at McGill. After an initial interest in starting a bar in Montreal, the team’s project was sparked last September when Audibert and Lafaurie were introduced by a mutual friend. However, the idea eventually evolved into an effort to mix the social activity that a bar represents with artwork in the thriving art district of the Plateau.
Their name is inspired by the character Fonzie from the show Happy Days, a sitcom televised in the ‘70s and ‘80s—a branding choice that was rooted in their admiration of Fonzie’s cool character and seductiveness on the show, his spirit and all he represents to them.
Fonzie is a space that borders on the underground, almost speakeasy in style. Along with their subtly marked location, they rely on word-of-mouth as a marketing strategy and hold a large resistance to the commercialization of their space. “The people who are meant to hear about it will somehow hear about it. We’re doing everything we can to attract the right people, but not to spread the word out there and have anybody come in here either. Anybody’s welcome, but we’re really relying on the artists to spread the word with their networks so this stays in the arts scene,” said Audibert.
The first Friday of every month marks a new turnover of displayed pieces and artists. The space’s spirit is enamoured by fleeting entities, it’s this rotating door that makes the gallery unpredictable, surprising and ever-evolving. Artists can sometimes renew their placement within the space over multiple months as long as they change the work displayed. Any way you look at it, Fonzie is repeatedly and cyclically offering something new.
Although the space is centred around their Friday events, where the artists featured are often present, according to the owners, it’s alive and active the whole week. These artists can attain the visibility that the Friday evenings offer while also utilizing the space as a showroom or an area to share ideas, network, conduct professional meetings and more throughout the rest of the week.
Fonzie values the development of artists and provides a comfortable, positive starting block for emerging artists to showcase their work. Rather than a scalding hot dive or icy cold plunge into the Montreal art scene, Fonzie puts forward a cool wading pool for new artists. Additionally, the owners don’t take a commission if an artist sells their work. “It’s really important for us … If an artist sells something it will be [their] money because it’s [their] work,” said Lafaurie.
The artistry and distinction of Fonzie’s bar menu is also an aspect of the space that sets it apart. The mixologists at Fonzie pride themselves on high-quality ingredients and press or create every juice or syrup they use in-house. The Italian-inspired cocktail list was made by Diego Campanile, a Concordia student and Lafaurie’s roommate.
Fonzie offers delectable concoctions, diverse artwork and a warm environment. With a space small enough to facilitate a personal experience and an enticing community of people waiting behind their doors, Fonzie proves itself worthy of your next Friday night.
For more information visit http://fonziemtl.com/.