181 Great George St, Charlottetown, PE
Nearly every bar or club that serves as a small, local venue has mixed reviews - these places are, at the end of the day, bars and clubs. There’s always someone who has had a bad experience at a bar. However, Baba’s Lounge seems to be an exception. Since opening in 1991, this tiny venue has become a Charlottetown staple, and has generated invariably positive reviews. On Facebook, there can be found a near-constant stream of people with nothing but great things to say about Baba’s: for example, Alaina McAleer writes, “Always a great place to be, their events are always spectacular” (2020); and a user by the name of Katnap Nazim says, “Best bar in town, hands down. Great selection of beer, incredible staff, fun atmosphere. They get amazing bands in and have fun trivia and jazz nights. A Gem of a spot!” (2016).
And it’s not just social media users that hold Baba’s Lounge in such high esteem. Much Music has referred to it as “the World's biggest little rock and roll bar”; and in 2019, Maclean’s conducted a Canada-wide survey to find the most popular clubs/restaurants-turned-music venues - as judged by university students - and Baba’s Lounge was in the top 10.
Why is Baba’s so popular? Well, for starters, it’s a great hangout for University of PEI students. Located at 181 Great George St, it’s easily accessible - there is a public transit stop right across the street on University Avenue - and it is located in the cultural core of Charlottetown, a city with a vibrant artistic community. As far as atmosphere is concerned, it’s very difficult to feel as though you’re not at home at Baba’s Lounge. Located in what is essentially an attic on top of a restaurant, this coziest of venues has charms such as a humbly small floor space, exposed architectural beams, and a steepled ceiling (to which the main speakers are affixed, so as to maximize the aforementioned humbly small floor space). There’s just enough room to accommodate 80 guests, a small bar complete with draught beer, and several comfy armchairs that wouldn’t be out of place in the Gryffindor Common Room.
Plus, there’s the food: the restaurant upon which Baba’s sits is none other than the acclaimed Cedar’s Eatery, established 1979. Baba’s Lounge and Cedar’s Eatery share the same menu (Lebanese Cuisine), which a very fortunate arrangement: the latter has been voted one of the “Ten best buys in Canada,” it has been recommended in “Where to eat in Canada,” and it has also been featured in Canadian Geographic, Canadian Living, and Health naturally.
But best of all, for six nights a week this casual and intimate atmosphere is brought to life by live musical acts. Thursday nights are dedicated to jazz, Wednesday is slotted for open mic nights, and for the rest of the week Baba’s Lounge features musicians of all genres, with a focus on local acts. There are regular performances from PEI artists Mitch Schurman and Andrea MacDonald; and once in a while, an East Coast act makes their way through Baba’s on their way to nation-wide fame - Nova Scotia artists The Trews and Wintersleep, for example, have both played Baba’s in their early days. And because of Baba’s modest size, a band’s performance is “always intimate and everyone has a backstage pass with the opportunity to chat with band members after the show” (from Baba’s Facebook page).
So with this venue’s propensity for showcasing musicians that later achieve commercial success, the next local act you see, talk to, and hang out with at Baba’s Lounge could go on to be a household name in Canada (or even the world).