Waterloo Region Record
By Catherine Thompson
KITCHENER — Six months after a long-delayed, long-awaited opening, the Boathouse is going through a change in ownership.
Mark Forwell is buying out partner Bill MacTavish in a deal that is likely to close next week, Forwell said in an email.
“Bill and I are parting ways and will each pursue our separate visions,” Forwell said. “The price has been set and the deal should close next week. The only delays are getting tax advice, and transferring accounts, etc.”
He added that the Boathouse will still chiefly cater to blues and rock audiences, but that the location, next to the lake in Victoria Park, appeals to a diverse crowd so the venue will host different musical styles, with funk and country being the most requested music styles after blues/rock.
“The Boathouse aims to provide any music that gets people off their behinds,” Forwell said. “One of the most fun nights we had was a raucous “Gypsy Punk” band that plays lively, eastern European-influenced music. We are even hoping to get a band famous for using a chainsaw in their act.
“Generally, the place has been successful and we hope to build on what we’ve done so that we become a well-known destination.”
He has hired Rai Madge, who is well-known in the local music scene, to book musical acts, and a new chef, Matt Mahler, who has just introduced a new menu.
MacTavish declined Thursday to comment on why he is leaving, but said, “Given this new situation though, I am more aggressively pursuing a new location for Imbibe.” He owned Imbibe Food and Drink at 10 King St. W., which closed in June after a three-year run in space at Themuseum.
Forwell said the change in ownership will have no impact on the 10-year lease that he and MacTavish signed with the city in 2014, since he was a co-owner of the company from the outset.
The Boathouse opened in January after lengthy renovations, with space for about 150 people and another 135 on the patio.
The city awarded the contract for the Boathouse in early 2014 to Forwell and MacTavish, who were the sole remaining bidders in a process that had originally attracted six bids.
The popular city-owned venue was closed from September 2013 until January 2015. MacTavish and Forwell signed a 10-year lease with the city after the previous owner was kicked out for failing to pay bills. The city invested $410,000 in renovating the site, and another $350,000 in patio and walkway upgrades, with Forwell and MacTavish covering all other construction costs. Those amounted to at least $250,000, up from an original estimate of $168,000, MacTavish said last year.
Rod Regier, executive director of Kitchener’s economic development department, said he has no concerns about the change.
“The partner, Mark, who put the majority of the financial investment in the business, is invested and committed to the business, to the point where he’s wiling to purchase the rest of it,” said Regier. “For me, that’s a good sign.”
The city is not involved in the transaction, other than to ensure that Forwell is committed to the original terms of the lease, and to the city’s vision for the site as a live-music venue and a high-quality food and beverage business, he said.
Coun. Frank Etherington, whose ward includes Victoria Park, said the Boathouse seems to be a success.
“From what I can see, and I’ve been there a number of times, the Boathouse is doing very, very well, particularly the summer patio, where it’s just fabulous to sit out there in the evening and watch the world go by,” Etherington said.
The building was originally constructed to store canoes and as a shelter for people putting on their skates. Over the years, it has served as a tea house, a pub and a bar with live music that seated about 80 people. The last major renovation took place in 1967 following a roof fire.
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