Since its opening in 2014, the House of TARG has carved out an identity in Ottawa as a den of pinball, punk and handmade pierogi. This unique medley of attractions has garnered TARG a host of loyal patrons, with people driving from as far away as Montreal and the U.S. for nights of live music and retro gaming. The musician owners aim to create a multidimensional experience that appeals to all ages; they even publish their own zine with comics and a “scene report,” which is available to download on the House of TARG website.
TARG claims to “feature the best local and international rock, metal, punk bands & DJs we can find,” an ambition echoed by a diverse event calendar featuring performances by acts like Blue Angel, Fresh Snow, Freelove Fenner, Ought, the Yips, Duchess Says, Tough Age and Petra Glynt. They also book many emo, rock and punk cover bands. The punk and metal shows can be deafening in the relatively small concert space (capacity is 150), but the bar sells cheap earplugs for sensitive-eared folk. TARG also hosts burlesque shows, ’80s dance nights with prizes, DJs, clothing swaps, ska nights, craft shows and a pierogi-centered brunch on Sunday. It’s a popular hangout for families during the early evening, for food and games.
The “barcade” first opened in 2014, occupying the empty basement space that used to hold the jazz club The New Bayou. The name of the bar comes from the popular 1980s game ‘Targ,’ the first game that was donated to the owners — and which gave them the inspiration to build an arcade-themed venue. The space is wide and sparsely lit, with blinking arcade games lining the walls, a decent amount of seating and lots of open space in front of the small stage for dancing. All ages are welcome before 9 p.m., but shows don’t usually start until 10, and ID enforcement is strict. Don’t spend all your cash on pinball; TARG starts charging cover for the evening show after 9 p.m., even if you’re already inside.
House of TARG emphasizes that it is a safe space, with zero-tolerance for discrimination or harassment. Accessibility can be an issue for some though, with steep steps down to the venue. There are several buses that stop right in front of the venue, and street parking is available too.