Vancouver’s music venues in the face of the Downtown Eastside crisis

Shows were canceled and bands were forced to relocate for security reasons outside of Imperial.

A Vancouver music venue is getting by with a little help from its friends lately due to security concerns in the Downtown Eastside.

“Imperial have informed us that they are no longer able to hold events, due to the escalating violence and unsafe general conditions on their doorstep, effective immediately,” the band’s drummer said. Vancouver Soulstream funk, Randall Stoll.

Stoll shared the news on the group’s Facebook page earlier this week and since then two other musical groups have announced that their shows at the Imperial have been moved to other venues in the city.

“Apparently the area around the Imperial Theater is very sketchy and instead of going ‘warriors’ style, we were able to just move the show around,” rapper Ekoh wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Imperial is located on Main Street near Hastings where there is a large homeless population who have tents pitched outside the venue and Imperial reportedly feels they cannot ensure the safety of their guests.

The Ekoh show taking place tonight has been moved to Fortune Sound Club and an upcoming October 1 show by Venezuelan band Rawayana has been moved to the rickshaw. VIA contacted the Red Rum Club who are to play Imperial on October 7 and they were unaware of the cancellation of the shows.

VIA has also repeatedly reached out to Imperial and its operator, The MRG Group, for comment, but has yet to receive a response. There is also no word on any of the venue’s public platforms if the other shows scheduled for October or November will be moved or cancelled.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate that homelessness and addiction are such persistent issues that seem so insurmountable,” says Nate Sabine, director of business development at Blueprint, the company that operates the Fortune Sound Club.

How is the place mobilizing to support Imperial?

“I didn’t know they were planning on doing this, or that things had gone so badly for them until I read the news myself,” Sabine told VIA. “I think it’s responsible what Imperial has done by closing its doors and saying it can’t guarantee the safety of its guests.”

Sabine is also President of MusicBC, President of the Hospitality Vancouver Association and sits on the Board of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA). He therefore has a lot of experience in managing municipal policies surrounding the local music industry and communities. well-being, safety and security.

“It’s an election year, and we’re hearing a lot of promises from every party and everyone running for mayor. I think the proof will be in the pudding, if this problem can be solved. And c ‘is far more important than the music, or concert halls or the Downtown Eastside, but to me it’s just emblematic of what’s going on there and how bad things are,’ he says. .

Fortune Sound Club doesn’t do much business with MRG, but Sabine says they’ve stepped up to support live music. He doesn’t believe there’s any sort of municipal or provincial government subsidy or business strategy that’s going to help Imperial or anyone else in their situation. “In reality, it’s just another side effect of this persistent problem that has no solutions,” notes Sabine.

However, he also doesn’t know of any other locations that experience the same issues to the extent that Imperial has.

“Security, especially since COVID and especially in this general area of ​​Gastown and Chinatown, has been the number one concern for some time,” he explains. “But I don’t know of any other business in hospitality, entertainment or otherwise that had to close because they couldn’t guarantee the safety of their guests. Jeez, if I didn’t know better, I’d think this was some publicity stunt. It’s almost unbelievable.”

The future of Vancouver’s reputation in the music industry

Between bands losing venues and the Breakout festival riot that put Vancouver on the international stage in all the wrong ways, Sabine says there’s fear the city is developing a bad reputation in the music industry. music with touring bands.

“All those little things, it’s not necessarily a big thing that has to happen to a city or neighborhood that will turn people off or give it a bad name. But it’s death by 1,000 paper cuts. And it’s all paper cuts, some bigger than others that happen,” says Sabine.

Sabine says the Fortune Sound Club is stepping in because “all is not well.”

“It’s definitely not about the money, because there’s no money in live music, as anyone can tell you. It’s not fair for the artists, it’s not fair for their fans, it’s not fair for the room which suffers from it. None of this is fair to anyone. So we’re only doing our small part, I’m sure other venues are putting on shows that we can’t take, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. But it’s the least we can do. Can you imagine you’re on tour and all of a sudden your date in Vancouver is in jeopardy? »

Sabine assures that live music in Vancouver is indeed thriving and although the situation at Imperial is unfortunate, “people need to be aware that the city is safer than people think”.

He says there is beauty in different neighborhoods and that Vancouver needs a diversity of places. He encourages everyone to support live music and says that “ever since everything reopened, not just Blueprint, but concerts in general, have been selling like hot cakes.”

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