Last call for downtown Victoria music venue

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Going out to see live music is pricy. Hosting it is pricier, and as a result Victoria’s music scene has lost a stage.

“This may be a cliche answer, but I think COVID did everything in,” says Jules Charles.

He works at Hermann’s Jazz Club, which continues to be a driver in the city’s music culture, but their upstairs neighbour, Hermann’s Upstairs, is closing its doors.

“Our friends up there are out of work. Bartenders, door people, barbacks.”

Both clubs are operated by Arts on View Society, and executive director Clay Barber says overall operating costs, including insurance and labour, and lower-than-expected ticket sales spelled the end for the 200-seat venue.

“Even for sold-out shows, we had low beverage sales,” says Barber.

Ian Hoar is a DJ and promoter who has hosted several events at Hermann’s Upstairs in the last year.

“It was a good midsized venue, 200 to 250 people that you could get, and it’s kind of hard to find a place like that that’s affordable.”

Victoria City Coun. Matt Dell is proposing funding for another downtown arts venue that’s seen its operating costs spiral. Thursday he’s tabling a multi-year funding grant for the Victoria Events Centre. If approved, the VEC would receive $20,000 per year.

“It’s the city’s first time we’d be giving them operating funding to help them along and say we appreciate what you’re doing, keep doing what you’re doing, and possibly expand it,” said Dell.

Dell doesn’t downplay the lingering effects of the pandemic on local music venues.

“The affordability crisis has hit that. It’s hard for artists to find spots to perform and also find places to live,” he added.

Charles says solutions are needed, including more convenient transit options to get people to and from downtown.

“It’s fifty or sixty bucks to get a cab out to Saanich. So you’re spending $200-$300 for a night out. Drinks are $20 each, and anybody that’s gone out lately knows what I’m saying,” added Charles.

Hermann’s has a full slate of acts booked for the rest of the month and will continue to operate until March 31.

WATCH ALSO: ‘Heavy hearts’: Victoria Blue Bridge Theatre closing, selling all props and equipment

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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