Seamus Cowan and The Cove Inn:Saving the Live Music Scene - theHumm August 2020

Seamus Cowan and The Cove Inn:Saving the Live Music Scene - theHumm August 2020

Seamus Cowan is the second generation of Cowans to run The Cove Inn in beautiful Westport, Ontario . We contacted him to find out how he has been able to almost single-handedly repopulate theHumm’s music calendar listings.

theHumm: First of all, how have you and the Cove been faring since COVID hit?

Seamus Cowan: It has been an engaging, all-consuming time. Home with family was wonderful, although admittedly challenging at times as anyone in my shoes can attest to! Our hotel rooms were available for rent under essential business status but nothing else except takeout was doable. Takeout happened one day per week for a month with huge success, allowing us to pay some bills. Thanks to some selfless help from several staff, we were able to increase takeout. It worked, but it wasn’t until June that things really started to happen for us again by being completely open on the patio (although with limited capacity). Honestly, places like ours have been very lucky because of our size. I wouldn’t always say that! Now that summer is here, it’s all relatively busy again with us being open daily from 11:30am to 8pm and with solo/small act music five to six days per week.

When you first contacted us with your open-air music events for July we thought you were jumping the gun, but you had in fact worked closely with your local Health Unit to create conditions under which live music could safely resume. Can you tell us a bit about that process and the results? 

Yes, and this was and frankly continues to be somewhat confusing to all of us including the health unit. It’s uncharted waters for us all. Legislation is constantly being introduced and amended. Some of it can be interpreted in different ways. I felt so passionately about the statement about not allowing dancing and singing on patios that I made an appeal to our Leeds Grenville Lanark Health Unit inspector. As a result we have singing musicians back on our patio stage, distanced twelve feet from the diners with a cordoned-off area around them. Everyone is staying away from the stage and performer with this setup, and the projection of the performer’s voice doesn’t threaten anyone. 

Why was it so important for you to advocate for live music?

My family has been in this business for over thirty years now. We have built our business with live entertainment being one of the main parts of what we do — along with food, drink and accommodation in the restaurant and hotel. It’s become a symbiotic relationship. I’m a musician as well. Without music in the equation, my role wouldn’t be the same here. I wouldn’t even be here. And I don’t know if The Cove would be here. Over the last twelve years, since I have been back from Montreal, our music scene has grown to attract some of Canada’s great acts as well as some incredible international talent. We need venues to support live music, and listeners are a huge part of that. It’s quite simple. Facebook Live was great with our Thursday open mic and Sunday Wings ‘n Quarantunes, but we all know that playing live music in front of an audience is the only way.

As Ontario progresses into Stage 3, what kinds of support would be helpful to The Cove — either from institutions like arts funders and health units or from your patrons and the community?

We mainly operate because we provide person-to-person service in hospitality. We need to continue that way and cannot take any shortcuts. Having the government help our industry with a wage subsidy will be a temporary relief. But our biggest support will come from our loyal and new customers visiting us for what we offer. Until we are allowed to have more people gather in groups outdoors and until we are allowed to have indoor dine-in service, we will have to plow through summer and continue to think creatively. We definitely have some ideas on what we might be able to do into the cooler months. Perhaps our business model will change. Biggest thing right now? Support your local businesses, no matter what. We need you!

What are you personally most concerned about at this time?

It’s not so much a business issue, but it has ripple effects. We need to hope that our children will be able to get back to school. Many families are feeling the same. We love our kids, but we need to work to provide! There have been some announcements about options but it’s all going to be tricky. 

What are you optimistic about in terms of what happens to live music and tourism during and after the pandemic?

I’m optimistic about a lot of things with respect to live music to be honest! For example: 

Creativity. New ideas in the industry like drive-in shows. Maybe it’s not the only way, but amalgamating with the classic concert-goer experience will might change the way it’s done. Paid online concerts can reach a huge new audience and be intimate in a different way. 

Connectivity. Broadcasting live shows from our patio has been a great way for artists to showcase themselves and the venue, and to make some extra income. 

Exposure. I have heard so many artists talking about reaching new fans through social media. I’ve also heard so many fans taking about hearing new artists through friends online. It’s incredibly powerful, this sense of cross-pollination. 

Technology. We are starting to look at our video and audio capabilities through online platforms now. It will be exciting to see what comes of new high-definition picture resolution and improved audio and split screens! There really is so much opportunity. At the end of it all though, it’s all about people coming out to see live music in a venue, no matter what size or location. That’s the simple formula that people have clearly been starved for, as they are back out in droves to hear it. 

In general tourism terms, we are going to see changes in volume for the next while. We are OK now and getting through with the help of some good summer tourism, but it’s all relative. Thankfully people are starting to call and look even further ahead to Christmas. This is all encouraging. Stay tuned, however. We hope to see you all at The Cove soon. Come visit!


Colleen Gray — Indigenous Artist, Strong Woman, Good Human - theHumm August 2020

By Sally Hansen

In June of 2019, Colleen Gray received the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers “for her role in supporting art exploration through access to art supplies and creative art programs in Canadian remote Indigenous schools through the Art for Aid Project”. Gray is the founder and indefatigable driving force of the project that: “…works to support Canadian First Nations, Inuit and Métis art education programs through......


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Special Scavenger Hunt Edition for 2020!
- theHumm August 2020

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OR How to Keep your Sanity until “Back to School”… Whenever that Is
- theHumm August 2020

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Sarah Reside: “Lanark County Lette......


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Seamus Cowan and The Cove Inn:Saving the Live Music Scene - theHumm August 2020

Seamus Cowan is the second generation of Cowans to run The Cove Inn in beautiful Westport, Ontario . We contacted him to find out how he has been able to almost single-handedly repopulate theHumm’s music calendar listings.

theHumm: First of all, how have you and the Cove been faring since COVID hit?

Seamus Cowan: It has been an engaging, all-consuming time. Home with family was wond......


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- theHumm August 2020

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- theHumm August 2020

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By Amanda Robinson is the CEO at Lanark Highlands Public Library

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It was a true “dreaming ......


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