Live Rock and Roll Rock Biz

What’s It Like to Run a Rock Club? We Ask Dawn Simmons, Owner of Toronto’s Rok Boutique

Part of what we like to do here at The Rock and Roll Report is loom at various aspects of the “Rock Biz” for those of you who may be curious as to what goes on behind the mixing board at a concert or what does those tour buses look like inside.

This week we talk to Dawn Simmons, the owner of Toronto rock bar the Rok Boutique about what they are trying to do, the business of running a rock club and what it is like being the only female owner of a rock bar in Canada.
Rock and Roll Report: What’s your background? How did that lead you to opening a rock club?

Dawn Simmons: I’ve been in the service industry all my life… i like creating environments where people can feel relaxed and enjoy themselves. The opening of the ROK was something that just happened… I’m a baker by heart and wanted to open a bakery but I had a friend that introduced me to Tracy Lynn…. we immediately clicked. Tracy had a vision of ROK .. it was simple … she’s been going to Los Angeles for years. She has partied at the best Rock clubs and with the biggest bands in the world … After 3 bottles of the finest champagne we decided to open a club ….. our business plan was started that night…. 3 days later we found the perfect space 200 Bathurst street just north of Queen… within a 2 minute walk of the longest standing ROCK bar in Toronto…we wanted to create a bar a ROK Bar that our girlfriends would love… something girly but with an edge…so we painted the walls hot pink with a bit of black for the boys. Imported black crystal chandeliers from Europe…. we new that if it was pretty that our girls would be there and the boys would follow.

RRR: How long has Rok Boutique been in business?

DS: Rok opened the doors June 1 2007

RRR: What kind of crowd do you cater to?

DS: We really have a mixed crowd…. from True Rokers with long hair and dressed in leather and tattoos to corporate bay street looking to party on the weekends. We’ve got the Queen st new kids. to the young at heart trying and wanting to relive their youth…

RRR: What kind of music does the club play?

DS: 80’s hair ROk is a huge night for us, but rok music is what we do… it could be indie, new rock, classic , punk, rockabilly, grunge, British rok… it depends on who is in town (rok stars) and what dj is spinning that night

RRR: What do you think sets your club apart from others in town?

DS: We’re GIRL friendly …. we had a bartender Jess and she is also a pole dancing instructor for a girlfriends studio called ARADIA Fitness and for Jess’ B-Day we bought her own pole which is a now permanent fixture of the club….. Jess would always stop mixing drinks and put on the sexiest show for us…. she’s moved on now but still a great friend… she knows her pole is waiting for her whenever she’s in Toronto..

RRR: In this age of chains (Hard Rock, etc.) how difficult is it to stay independent?

DS: Not necessarily stay independent is hard …. we don’t have the advertising budget that these super clubs have. We are fortunate to have a lot of friends who spread the word about the ROK Boutique… the best thing i hear is someone saying” FUCK i love this club… how long you’ve been open… i till them a year and its like no shit I just heard about it. THIS PLACE ROKS! ” hahaha

RRR: How is business?

DS: Business is amazing… we just did another week of renovations to up our capacity…. we finally have it the way Tracy and i first envisioned the club… we just built a new stage at the front of the club upgraded our sound system so we could do bands and actually record them live from the club… added the best stage lights and made a green room for the bands that play ROk

RRR: What are the plans for the future?

DS: The future is bright for us…. we’ve definitely had an impact in the area…. I’d love to see ROK Boutique LA…. Thats where Tracy wants to move to and has tons of ties there…… we are working on that dream right now…

RRR: Do you ever get into problems because you are a woman in this business? Does that even matter anymore in 2008?

DS: Its a tough business ….. Being the only female Rok Bar owner in ALL of Canada…. wow! I think sometimes my femininity helps me but its a double edged sword….cause I can’t always be the nice girl then I’m just the bitch. But let me tell you at the end of the day I get the job done !

RRR: Who would be your dream band or artist that you would like to see on the Rok Boutique’s stage?

DS: Tracy wants Motley Crue….. she loves Niki Six since she was a little girl…… Knowing Tracy it will happen ….
RRR: Anything else you want to add?

DS: We’ve had in the club::::: Alice Cooper, Fasterpussycat, LA Guns, Slayer, Marilyn Manson, Six AM, D Generation , Billy talent, Sum 41, Kayos, Killer Dwarves, Crowded House, Slik Toxic, and others i can’t remember but Tracy could…..

Its been a struggle but the best thing I’ve ever done. I have met the most amazing people….. not just ROK stars but regular everyday people that love the Rok Boutique and what we’ve created….. a place to hang out party and call their cheers….

RRR: Thanks Dawn!

You can check out the Rok Boutique whenever you are in Toronto at 200 Bathurst Street (At Queen St) or online at

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