Kensington Dispatches: Sundays on Augusta

Written by Lawrence Belanger

Passionate about electronic music, live performances, and fostering community with musicians and fans of music.

June 19, 2024

Welcome to the 3rd in our new weekly-ish series on the weekend nightlife in Kensington Market. Every weekend, I head to Kensington Market and walk down Augusta Ave and the nearby area to hear what’s playing from the numerous bars and clubs in the area.

– Lawrence Belanger, Contributing Editor

June 9 – Like most nightlife scenes, Sundays on Augusta Ave in Kensington Market, are an afterthought in most people’s minds. However, the end of the weekend nightlife provides a welcome contrast to the typical events of Friday and Saturday. Two Sundays ago, I set out to explore the quieter side of the city’s nightlife, hopping between a few choice spots to get a feel for the scene.

Start of the Night

My first stop was Midnight Arcade, where the barkeep eagerly tended to the handful of customers scattered around the bar. He mentioned that Sunday nights are about a 50/50 chance of being busy or slow, with this particular night leaning towards the latter. On longer weekends, the bar brings in a DJ to amp up the atmosphere. Additionally, he noted that Saturdays are typically their busiest night. Nevertheless, the quieter crowd created a relaxed and welcoming vibe. Soon, a second group arrived, gravitating towards the Initial-D video game console, adding a bit of liveliness to the scene. A laid-back selection of pop and hip-hop tracks from artists like The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar played from the speakers – a fitting soundtrack for a mellow night.

Outside, Bellevue Park was quiet, mostly empty – in contrast to the bustling scene during the day, particularly in summer. I wandered northward into the Film Café, where a good-sized and enthusiastic group engaged in karaoke. Though the Spanish was unfamiliar to me, it was upbeat and vibrant, the music creating a fun and spirited atmosphere. Despite the crowd, the guy behind the counter retorted to me that it wasn’t particularly busy. He didn’t know it was easily the most lively place I visited that night. The karaoke singers seemed undeterred by the “sparse” audience and belted out tunes with gusto.

The Arch Cafe was also open, with a handful of people chilling to some late-night deep house music. The ambiance was cozy and intimate, with dim lighting and a relaxed vibe that made it a great spot to wind down the evening.

Wrapping up the Evening

As I was about to call it a night, I ran into local musician Donnie Drain, guitarist for the genre-bending band Mauve Grauve. We decided to head over to Handlebar, a favourite haunt for late-night regulars. With the main events of the night wrapped up, the bar was filled with people mingling and sharing stories from their weekends. We grabbed a couple of drinks, and I chatted up the regulars and swapped life stories. Donnie got to work on a poster for an upcoming Radiohead tribute show Mauve Grauve will be playing in.

Sundays on Augusta Ave might be quieter than the rest of the weekend, but it’s a unique opportunity to experience Kensington in a more relaxed, intimate way. If you find the typical nightlife overwhelming, perhaps heading out on Sundays is an idea. From quiet parks and cozy cafes to laid-back bars and spontaneous encounters with local musicians, if one knows where to look, there’s a quiet magic to be found if you know where to look.

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