Glenn Smith, Danny Michel withdraw proposal over “unacceptable risk”

By Heather Abrey, Kitchener Post staff

Only one bid to run the boathouse in Victoria Park remains after Glenn Smith, owner of Ethel’s Lounge, and Danny Michel, a local musician, announced on Monday that they are withdrawing their proposal.

“We’ve tried to imagine what the community is hoping for, what the city is looking for, and our vision and goal for the venue,” reads a post on their Facebook page, The Jubilee Music Hall — the name they had planned for the venue.

“That, on top of large and seriously needed renovations, means we feel it is not possible to move forward without a level of risk that would be unacceptable for all of us.”

The boathouse closed in September after the city severed a contract with former operator Kevin Doyle due to months of unpaid bills.

The building requires significant renovations, and some of that money will come out of the pockets of a new operator. The city, as a landlord, will make improvements to the building, but the new tenant will pay for upgrades like a new kitchen.

Rod Regier, the city’s director of economic development, previously told the Post that the current kitchen is obsolete, and the city would not likely accept any proposals that do not involve a renovation.

The withdrawal of Smith and Michel’s bid has not been officially announced by the city, but should that occur there will be only one bid left, a partnership between Curt and Cory Crossman, the operators of the KOI Music Festival, and Bill MacTavish, owner of Imbibe Food and Drink.

As of Tuesday afternoon, none of the partners had been contacted by the city about the bid. They have a presentation of their proposal scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22.

“It’s what we wanted in the end. It’s just not really how we wanted it to happen, but we feel good about it,” said MacTavish.

Part of Friday’s presentation will be renovation plans for the facility, according to Cory, and when they’re done with the place, patrons may not recognize it.

“It’s going to be a totally different layout and feel to the space,” he said.

The three partners hope to have live music every night, from a single guitarist to full bands.

“The music is going to be all over the place. We’ll have jazz, blues, world music, indie rock — very eclectic when it comes to music,” said MacTavish.

And they hope the food, which they have dubbed modern Canadian, will match that feel.

“What we want to do is use local produce and develop flavours kind of stealing from all the cultures. Kind of like what Canada is, I guess,” he said.

While MacTavish already runs a restaurant, he’s hoping operating the boathouse will open new doors when it comes to food.

“With Imbibe we have a very limited kitchen. We don’t have a hood, we don’t have a grill, we don’t have a fryer. Pretty much everything has to be baked or made fresh,” he said. “Having the boathouse is going to completely allow us to do exactly what we want to do. We’re not going to be limited by any equipment or anything like that, so we can completely put our vision together when it comes to the food.”

When it was run by Doyle, patrons of the boathouse often spoke of the welcoming, family friendly atmosphere, and MacTavish and the Crossman brothers hope to maintain that by offering a family-oriented space on the weekends and a varied mix of music styles.

“We want a place where people can come and enjoy a good time with food, drink and music. We want it to be a community place,” said MacTavish.

It’s not clear how the process will proceed with only one bid left, but the partners are excited by the ever-more-real prospect of running the boathouse.

“I think we had a pretty strong bid to begin with, so I’m feeling pretty confident about that. It’s exciting but nothing is for sure, so we’re still really waiting to hear what’s going to happen now,” said Cory.

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