By Lorne Eckersley
Local performers and music fans are reeling after learning that The Venue is closing due to building code issues.
Opened partly in response to the 2016 closure of the Sasquatch on 11th Avenue North, The Venue holds about 60 guests for performances.
Founder Richard Brown has said on his blog that a new RDCK building inspector served notice on March 18th that the “change in use” (from the Erickson building’s earlier use) means that changes to the building must be made quickly to avoid a Do Not Occupy notice is placed on the door.
Brown said that he cannot afford the costs, which would include the engagement of an architect.
“Where we stand at the present moment is this,” Brown wrote: “When we first rented the building that is known as The Venue in June 2018, we were assured by the RDCK building inspector that our intended use of the building would not constitute a ‘change in use’ and thereby not trigger a need to upgrade the building to today’s building codes. The building was built in 1945 or so.
“On the 18 March the new RDCK building inspector served notice to our landlord that an application for renovation had to be submitted by the end of the month. Here is the notice the landlord was given:”
I have been informed that there has been multiple functions happening at 3622 Church Rd. and more are planned for the future. I have also noticed some exterior renovations and can likely be safe to assume there has been some interior renovations as well. The alterations and improvements to the building along with the change in use require the engagement of an Architect.
We will require a letter of engagement from a coordinating professional along with an application for the change of use and improvements to the building. It is important to note that we will require a ‘Schedule A’ from the coordinating professional.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Time is of the essence with this, We are hoping to see an application and letter of engagement by the end of March to avoid a ‘Stop Work Order’ and ‘Do Not Occupy Notice’ placed on the building.
Since its opening, The Venue has become an increasingly popular location for local and visiting musical acts and other group uses. The Venue is operated as a non-profit and directed by a volunteer board.
Brown said that in February of last year our landlord did hire an architect that did a building inspection and provided list of improvements needing to be done.
“Being a registered non-profit society it was outside of our financial ability to make the upgrades,” he said. “Our landlord did not want to make the upgrades so it was left up to us. We contacted a contractor associated with The Venue and asked about the list from the architect. They said many of the requirements were unnecessary and in light of our original information from the previous inspector, not required unless there was a change of use. To be on the safe side we began working on the requirements that we could afford. We installed fire extinguishers at the top of the stairs, a lighted exit sign and a crash bar for the front door. These were done at the society’s expense.
“This year was looking good and the possibility was real that we could earn enough money to complete many of the items on the list. We had 35 concerts booked with musicians such as Oliver Swain, Ken Hamm and many others. Many other projects, such as movie recordings, workshops and building rentals were also starting to happen bringing in more funds. Having put $12,200 into the building by the end of 2018 and thousands more in 2019 I wasn’t financially able to put any more of my money into the project.”
The timing of the RDCK reconsideration could not have been worse.
“Then disaster struck,” Brown said. “Covid-19 swept the world and caused us to cancel all events at The Venue. The length of time was undetermined but government news broadcasts suggested the shutdown of businesses may last all summer long. With the prospects of any possibility of earning income with The Venue it looked like our plans to do any renovations at The Venue were crushed. Then the notice from the RDCK was served giving us less than two weeks to complete their requirements”
On Friday, singer/songwriter Gary Deatherage described the closure as “another of many major shocks of late.”
He is encouraging Brown to continue with the dream that began with the Church Road premises. “Let’s just move The Venue to another venue,” he said. “There will be new opportunities looking forward.”
Saying that Brown and The Venue “have the equipment, know-how, and artist contacts to operate anywhere,” Deatherage added, “I helped in my small way to create this wonderful thing called The Venue, and I intend to help it to move to an even better place.”
Brown, who lives in a suite attached to The Venue, said that landlord has put the property up for sale.
“Is there a way we can make The Venue continue to happen? I will keep fighting, but at the moment I’m worn out and I’m lost at what to do. My priorities right now are surviving and getting a place to live and moving a huge amount of stuff into storage. We will operate somewhere, I don’t know where. I hope it’s here, where we are at now.”
For The Venue to remain in its current location would like mean it being purchased by a supportive third party.