No sign on the door. A steep staircase down. The temperature drops a few degrees. Exposed stones reflect the dark, intimate glow of the room. We are softly enveloped by the beats from a DJ.
This is Afterlight, a new listening bar and underground speakeasy lounge at 129 Bank St., with natural wines and music curated by some of Ottawa’s most prominent DJs, hidden in an early 1900s heritage building.
Exclusively a weeknight experience, (City) Afterlight is open Tuesday to Thursday and is actually a sibling to City at Night, Ottawa’s well-known underground electronic music venue and club. We spoke with the people behind the bar, Jordan David and Farid Dagher, who also runs City At Night. With a big focus on good cocktails, head mixologist Makayla Sutherland completes the bar’s leadership team.
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You may know Jordan David as JFun and the co-founder of Music.Art.Ppl. David is now a curator and resident DJ at Afterlight. “I knew Jordan from his days at Bar Robo and wanted to work with him deeply on this project,” says Dagher. “Running it together, all his experiences, knowledge and passion for music and connecting people… It’s crucial to the recipe.”
The feeling was mutual. “I wanted to connect with Farid too,” says David. “He is the founding member of Deep Therapy, and I really resonated with what they were doing in the city—it was bold. The stars just aligned and he reached out and I took it as a sign. Now I can’t imagine if I didn’t follow that sign and intuition.”
Afterlight was a pandemic project and it all started with a dream, literally. “In the middle of the pandemic, I had a dream that I was driving by our building on Slater Street—in real life, it was dusty and dark, I could hear the fridges running,” recalls Dagher. “In the dream, I look at the space and the lights are on and something is happening there, the place is completely stripped, floors are gone, walls exposed, raw. I saw the potential in the space and loved it—the aesthetic of exposed stone and concrete.”
“I explained the story to Jordan, I had a call in to meet with a designer and contractor,” says Dagher. “We wanted to open up a wall in the space to create the vision I had in the dream. It turned into a full renovation and we created a new place. I didn’t have a mood board, so I ended up designing the place myself, and as we got closer to the end of the project, it looked like the dream. It gave me something fun and exciting to work on when we were mandated to be closed—we couldn’t have live music or people standing, couldn’t have City at Night.”
“Our city is filled with so many amazing DJs and curators, and they don’t get to highlight their talents… Give them a platform, so they can give their soul.”
Now, Afterlight is more than just a dream—it’s a neighbourly place for downtowners after sunset, whether you live there, work there, or are just passing by. It’s a place to socialize, have good drinks and listen to music. “We have a separate inventory, different menu, staff, and layout,” says Dagher, “It’s like a marriage of two visions. We turn over the space every week. There is an entrance on Slater for City at Night and a separate entrance on Bank for Afterlight, so as to not confuse people.”
When I ask David about the listening bar aspect and why this is so important to him, he says, “Our city is filled with so many amazing DJs and curators, and they don’t get to highlight their talents. There’s not enough time to tell a story if you are on the bill with four other artists. Give them a platform, so they can give their soul. It’s common in other cities but not here. There will be different genres, with common ground in the language of lounge [music]. It’s an alternative to the mainstream.”