We recently caught up with Gene Quondamatteo, the owner of Club 54 in Burlington to find out what it takes to run a successful club for 25 years.

After 25 years of running Club 54, what are some of your most cherished memories there?
My most cherished moments are the New Years Parties because they are always the best parties and each year is a milestone for the club. My wife Lisa and I always attend with some close friends and it gives us a chance to reflect on our years at the club. Also, we have had some great comics at the start of their careers here, notably Russell Peters. We’ve also had some great bands – it was a thrill for me to have The Beatles first drummer, Pete Best, and his band here three times. Another great memory were the 9 years that Ben Guyatt and I produced the ‘Comedy at Club 54’ TV show here. We shot about 240 episodes of the show and they ran on ‘The Comedy Network’ and CHCH TV for many years. The shows gave Club 54 national exposure and were also a big reason for the popularity and notoriety of the club.

You’ve been a staple for nightlife in Burlington for a quarter century, what if any are the different challenges you face there vs the downtown Toronto area?
I find that a lot of our customers come from the Toronto/ Mississauga/Oakville area, so maybe that is an advantage we have over downtown clubs – people always like to go out of town for a change of scenery and change of attitude.

How has the club scene changed in the past 25 years?
There’s been many changes in the business over the years. Social media has had the biggest effect. Online dating and socializing on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter has totally changed the way people communicate with each other (especially the younger crowd) which takes away from the bar scene. Also, the smoking ban and crackdown on alcohol consumption has had a huge effect over the years. So it’s a challenge for bars and clubs have to change their marketing and develop new ideas to keep the customers coming in.

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Are you planning any big renovations for Club 54?
Nothing drastic. Two mottos I live by are “Don’t mess with success” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I have found out over the years that if you renovate too much and change the decor of your club, you lose your crowd. People like to go to familiar places where they are comfortable and things don’t change too much – and that goes for the staff too. Some people say “the place looks dated” and “why don’t you update the look of the place?” Well, I think that part of the charm of Club 54 is that it’s still basically the same place that it’s been all these years. I think people like that.

Your business involves constantly being on top of current trends and creating new ones and resonate with the mainstream demographic, how do you do it?
A lot of that information is classified! Lol. However, it does involve a lot of clever marketing and keeping in touch with as many customers as you can on a weekly basis.

What is the core passion for you in doing this? What drives you?
I still enjoy the business because it’s a constant challenge to come up with new ways to keep the place full of customers every weekend. Marketing has always been my forte ever since business school, so it’s kind of fun in a way to create new ways to influence people and convince them to come back to the club over and over again. It’s easy to get them in the door once – the real challenge is to keep them coming back.

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What’s your philosophy when it comes to finding the perfect staff for your business?
I’ve always tried to hire friendly and happy people with the best personalities. I also try to treat my staff with respect and with a friendly attitude because a friendly owner makes for a friendly staff. That also makes our customers feel welcome which is also a big part of our success. Our management and staff are some of the biggest reasons for our success because they are the first contact with our customers. So their professionalism is most important. We have many staff members who have been with me for over 10 years and up to 25 years! Ben Guyatt has been hosting our Comedy Show for 23 years and our talented DJs over the years have kept the party going week after week.

I visited club 54 last week and I notice you have a great mix of young and seasoned clubbers all mingling and having a great time. How do you pull that off and is it a challenge to cater to such a wide demographic all on the same night?
Again, it’s all in the marketing, the comedy, the music and great service from our friendly staff. It’s a mix of things that makes the place comfortable for all types of people. Plus, the club has been around so long that people have fond memories from here that keeps them coming back for years.

What would you like your friends and patrons to know about your upcoming 25 Year Anniversary Bash?
It will be on Saturday, December 17th – doors open at 8:30. The Comedy Show is from 9:00 – 10:30 and the Dance Party is from 10:30 – 2:00am. DJ Keith will spin in the Main Room and DJ Mario in the Latin Room. We’ll be giving away a trip to Las Vegas and there will be lots of Anniversary Cake for everyone!

Thanks for your time Gene, we appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us to give our readers an update.

Cheers 🙂
Gene

Gene Quondamatteo
Owner
Club 54 Nightclub
3345 Harvester Rd.
Burlington, Ont.
L7N 3N2

 

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