A Brief History of Bohemia
Bohemia started out as Bohemia Cyber Cafe in 1999, and was originally located on Jasper Avenue and 111th Street in downtown Edmonton. For ten years, it served the community as a neighborhood hub of information and a meeting place for local residents and commuters, many of whom would come to Bohemia to rent computer / internet time and enjoy snacks in the casual atmosphere, which was traditionally highlighted by colorful and friendly staff and patrons. Unfortunately, after two ownership changes, Bohemia Cyber Cafe fell victim to dwindling revenues and rising rents, and the business closed in 2009 and moved out of its long-standing location on Jasper Ave.
Several former employees and customers were interested in the culture of the cafe continuing, because Bohemia had found recent success in hosting monthly "art+muzak" shows, where burgeoning local artists and musicians showcased their art during a monthly event at the cafe. Two former employees and a few former customers, along with help from their friends and well-wishers who wanted to see Bohemia continue, pooled their resources and began renting temporary locations to continue the monthly "art+muzak" showcases until a new home could be found. By January of 2010, bohemians from the previous Cyber Cafe had reinvented the business as Bohemia Cafe and Variety Venue, and found a dilapidated, abandoned warehouse in the Oliver area from which they were able to operate. The bohemians became a member-based organization funded by small contributions to keep paying rent and keep booking bands and artists with. No longer present was the "Cyber" portion of the business; now the focus was purely local art and music, and good locally roasted coffee products.
It wasn't a "Happily Ever After" moment that it could have been, however. With an ownership change, the warehouse building Bohemia was located in undertook drastic new management changes, and began to raise all the rents for all tenants, including the Cafe and Variety Venue space. By May of 2011, the writing was on the wall that a new location was required. Another brief period of being closed down resulted in success! A prime location that was formerly a cafe itself, but which could be rezoned to become a bar, was found right in the heart of Edmonton's Arts District, at 10217 97 St NW. The bohemians picked up their meager belongings and reorganized under a new corporate leadership, headed by Sheena O'Keefe, and they have never been happier to be a part of the arts scene in Edmonton. With a new, shorter name (it's just Bohemia now) the focus has expanded to provide an exciting, high profile venue for emerging artists and musicians to showcase their work and evoke a reaction. This time, with the "Cafe" dropped, Bohemia is a fully licensed bar and lounge open to those who are open to art and music. Long live Bohemia!
by Steve Steffler.