The Culture of Brock Street

By Jocelyne Kilpatrick

Recently, no places have screamed culture like Musiikki Cafe and Whiskey Bar, which just opened this summer. A teeny place squeezed between Cunningham & Poupore and Atomica, it seats only twenty-five people; so small, it is almost necessary to search for it as you walk by.



Lower Brock Street is not what it used to be. Even five years ago it was more of a side alley than a main street of the downtown core, something like an extension of Princess. Now a culture is developing on Brock that is heightening the flavour of downtown.

A few doors over from Musiikki, Kingston Olive Oil Company is becoming increasingly popular for its imported high quality olive oil. A number of curious people stop in daily, perhaps drawn by the extensive range of free sampling. I like to think, however, as I see people dash away with armfuls of bottles, that Kingstonians are enthused about quality. Local restaurants, like Olivea, are certainly buying in on the high-end flavours.

Kingston has a strong arts culture and a close-knit arts community, a fact which surprised me after I returned from living in our culturally dense book-end metropolitans. Toronto and Montreal have distinctive street fashion, music scenes, and festival line-ups. The only thing that I had thought defined Kingston was its history, namely the years surrounding 1867.

Art After Dark, FebFest, Buskers Rendezvous, BluesFest, Writer’sFest—I believed these festivals were tourist draws to keep the city thriving. This is true, but I have also been noticing the same crowd attending these cultural events—not tourists—but what I call the Kingston cultural substream. These enthusiasts find their daily fare in the art galleries, restaurants, and theatre venues of downtown.

As stores close on Princess, new ones open on Brock, and Kingston Olive Oil Company and City and Cargo (a store focused on high quality bags with functional design) do not in any way suggest a lack of affluence in the neighbourhood. Even Musiikki sells a $34/ounce whiskey.

Kingstonians are still looking for quality and taste, but I think most of all, Kingstonians want to support businesses that are connected to their community.

It looks like Musiikki is pressing all the right buttons. The idea of a cafe and whiskey bar seemed to owner Kris Clendining and co-founder Alex Rhintress like the perfect mix. It certainly works great for date night, but also, the lower price of the cafe and the higher prices of the craft beer and whiskey bring in a range of clientele.





Ryan Maybee explains their motto, “It’s quality first.” This is not a snobby place, but neither is it Bohemian. It’s a relaxed, cultured venue that makes you feel like you are on vacation in Europe or South America. It thrives on connectedness—weekly open mic, local art (even sketches) pasted on the walls, a selection of whiskey chosen by the customers themselves, local bands and local musicians—even a recording studio in the works.

With “Simplicity at its best,” this is the Kingston I get excited about.

(Special thanks to Kingston artist Brittany Moore for supplying the photos for this article.)