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From punk rock to perogies: Ottawa's House of TARG aims to outlast COVID

Paul "Yogi" Granger opened the House of TARG as a place he and his friends would feel comfortable in back in 2014.

DIY club owner Paul “Yogi” Granger didn't get into the club business to make a fortune. He opened the House of TARG so he'd have a cool place to throw parties and present live music.

Born in Ottawa 48 years ago, Granger was a rock musician playing gigs with his band Ukrainia; a sound technician, running shows at Zaphods and Babylon; a producer, recording bands; and he would throw monthly parties at his Main Street recording studio.

That's when, in 2014, a basement space came available on Bank Street at the corner of Sunnyside Avenue.

He and his partners, Mark McHale, Kevin Berger and Blake Jacobs, saw the chance to consolidate all their projects into one centralized club-hub.

“We got the place originally in 2014 because we were throwing punk rock parties every month at my recording studio on Main Street and the space was too small,” Granger explains. “I've been thinking about owning my own place since I was in my 20s. I knew I wanted to create a place that was fun and wouldn't be like other clubs. I really liked the club atmosphere.”

Named after the 1980 arcade game, in the years since, the House of TARG established a reputation as the preferred venue to see bands like The Dayglo Abortions, Said The Whale, Big Wreck, Ian Blurton and Dilly Dally on a regular basis.

As if running a punk club wasn't challenging enough, Granger's been struggling to keep the House of TARG afloat throughout a series of ever-changing COVID restrictions. 

But Granger's anarchistic imagination and DIY ingenuity helped salvage his COVID-ravaged club. He's cancelled live music for now and in it's place, is pushing perogies, both frozen for home and hot for take-away.

Half-Ukrainian and half-British, Granger added perogies to the House of TARG menu both as a tribute to his Ukrainian heritage and to give the club a unique flavour.

“The perogies started as our niche that made us a little different from everyone else,” he says. “Now, they're the busiest part of the business. Temporarily I hope.”

Orders can be made at the House of TARG's website.

Additionally, he's going family-friendly, with events like puppet plays and cabaret. He's also offering a cheap-date promotion with perogies and pinball for $10. He's also booking bands for late spring. He's partnering with San Francisco artist Dirty Donny Gilles on a record he's recording at his studio in Low, Quebec.

Granger describes House of TARG as part Disneyland-part CBGB's nightclub in the heart of old Ottawa South. There's a stage for gigs, wall space for art, an arcade for 20 vintage pinball machines, 25 arcade games and a kitchen where the house specialty is perogies.

From the beginning, the location was designed as a place where musicians and artists of all stripes could relax and even create in. Granger and company didn't exactly follow a business plan.

“The club is not a big money maker,” he admits, “but I'm a master at breaking even. It sucks to be broke but I don't care about being flush with cash. I'm no good at making money, but I am good at making fun.”

“I haven't done a live show in two years because we have more important things to take care of,” he says. “I'm a punk, a metalhead, a jazz lover, a club owner, a producer and I'm looking after my parents. I'm far from rich, but I'm having a good life.”

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