Vancouver’s only full-time jazz club will leave the Kitsilano location it has occupied for 13 years in February, prompting worries about its uncertain future.
Cory Weeds, owner of the Cellar Jazz Club, announced this week that the club is moving out of its West Broadway home, a location that sees little foot traffic and isn’t close to a SkyTrain station. Mr. Weeds, an award-winning saxophonist, opened the club in 2000, and said he’s feeling the strain of keeping a small business quite literally above water.
Vancouver’s incessant rain means the club routinely floods and that, combined with the mounting stress of juggling the club’s restaurant business and the chaos of the music business in general, pushed Mr. Weeds to make a decision.
“Everything just kind of coalesced and I had to sit down and make some tough decisions.”
The club’s lease came up last June and Mr. Weeds came to an agreement with his landlord.
Mr. Weeds hopes to re-open the Cellar at a new location closer to downtown, and he’s looking at his options, including the possibility of partnering with someone who can take care of the restaurant side of the business.
In the meantime, he’s turning the club’s bookings into a concert series. The club will finish out the next three months with a full lineup.
“I’m tired of fighting, and I’m tired of fighting at that location. But I’m not tired of fighting for a jazz club,” said Mr. Weeds.
The Cellar Jazz Club hosts local and international musicians seven nights a week, often bringing in names like pianist Monty Alexander, David ‘Fathead’ Newman and Tom Harrell. Downbeat Magazine has included the club on its list of the world’s greatest jazz clubs for six years.
But for local musicians, more than the big names it’s the sense of community that’s most important.
Jodi Proznick, a bass player from Vancouver, has played at the club since it first opened. Ms. Proznick says the club has a loyal following of music fans, visual artists, writers and poets.
“When a venue is going away it’s like losing an old friend,” said Ms. Proznick.
Brian Fraser is the executive director of Jazzthink, a company that uses jazz as a metaphor for team building. He’s also a jazz lover who visits the Cellar once a month, and says it’s the only club in the city that’s dedicated to jazz.
“I loved the intimacy of the space, and certainly the people that you got to know who were regular [attendees] at the Cellar,” said Mr. Fraser.
The club has brought together a solid group of musicians and jazz fans, so that even without it, Mr. Fraser said, “I’m not concerned about that community disappearing. It just won’t have that one space, which was probably the best space.”
Vancouver jazz fan Richard Winn has been heading to the Cellar since it first opened.
“It’s a very, very sad day for the city of Vancouver. It’s a sad day for people who went to the club night after night after night for 13 years,” said Mr. Winn.
The Cellar is following other well-known clubs that have closed their doors in recent years, including Toronto’s Top O’ the Senator, Montreal Bistro, and Ottawa’s Café Paradiso.