By late summer 2023, Victoria Curling Club could become a new live music venue. Victoria city councillor Matt Dell and Victoria Curling Club invited the local music community for an open house on March 4 to take a look at the space and participate in a Q&A.
The open house comes after city council voted unanimously to endorse the club’s application to switch their liquor primary club licence for a straight liquor primary licence. The change would mean club members would not need to be present to serve liquor in the facility’s lounge. That change opens the door to hosting concerts.
“This started with the curling club and their desire to turn this space to a bit more of a music venue,” said councillor Dell at the open house. “I’ve linked with the curling club to talk about how the City of Victoria can be helping with arts an culture in the city, which is a huge priority for this current city council.”
“It’s very embryonic on what we’re trying to do up here,” said Victoria Curling Club general manager Paul Dixon. “Our vision is not to be genre specific in any way, shape or form. I would like punk to polka. That’s sort of our mantra. We would like this to be a community space.”
Councillor Dell than quipped, “What about death metal?” to which Dixon responded, “Death metal as well.”
The curling club would like to fill the venue as much as they can in the summer. During curling season, they hope to host shows once or twice a week.
At the event, city staff set up tables with questions for attendees to write feedback and answers to questions from the city with markers on large sheets of paper. Councillors Jeremy Caradonna and Dave Thompson were also in attendance.
Councillor Dell said council is looking into public revenues that could support venues such as Victoria Curling Club. He said there is a $250,000 fund for cultural infrastructure grants for up to $50,000 to help build an arts venue noting that grant from the City of Victoria could be used to help pay for the construction of the stage, installation of sound system, and other renovations.
Paul Dixon answered questions for about 30 minutes. You can watch the full Q&A in the video at the bottom of this article.
Here are some key takeaways from the open house:
1. Capacity and basic venue information
– The lounge’s capacity is 180 people total. Dixon estimates promoters and bands can consider the curling club essentially as a 150 to 160 person venue.
– Their licence allows the venue to be open until 1am (with last call at 12:30am). Sundays would close at 12am. Hours of operation would depend on staffing availability. The club is looking to have it be a late afternon to early evening venue.
– The lounge would not be an all-ages music venue. Minors are only allowed in the lounge when there’s curling happening and only until 10pm.
– The bar at the back feature 15 taps. Beer costs $6.25. The bar also sells small snacks like potato chips and cheezies.
1. Rental Cost
The facility’s current model for renting the space for private events is a $750 spend at the bar. If the bar sells $750 or more of booze, the rental is free. If concert-goers only buy $250 of booze at a show, the organizers would be required to pay $500 to the curling club to cover the full rental cost.
3. Insurance is currently included
Insurance is currently included with the rental. Victoria Curling club is still in discussions with their insurance provider to find out what kind of changes might happen if they become a live music venue. The percentage of revenue from bar sales could affect insurance rates, but they hope it won’t be a dramatic increase due to much of their revenue coming from being a curling club and from curling events.
2. Renovations and equipment logistics are still being worked out.
The venue currently does not have a stage, lighting or sound system in place. The spot they envision for the stage location is beside the entrance to what’s currently the men’s washroom and women’s change room.
They are looking to knock down an nearby wall where the women’s change room is to open up space to what sounds like a plan to change where the washroom entrances are located. That section also is the location of an emergency exit that is currently a quote, “janky fire escape” that will need to be addressed.
The women’s change room would be moved downstairs. Knocking down the wall would potentially allow for a space for gear to be stored. A downstairs room would likely be utilized for a green room for performers.
Electrical upgrades will also need to be addressed as a musician noted they only saw two power outlets where the stage would go and Dixon noted the building has experienced brownouts in the past. Acoustic treatments would also need work. There are drapes for the windows facing the curling ice and some sound panels replaced an old ventilation duct used when smoking used to be allowed indoors.
The timeline for any renovation work is up in the air and is dependent on availability of contractors and supplies. Dixon noted that a glass door was recently smashed with a rock and it took 3 weeks for someone to do a measurement and an additional 6 weeks for the glass panel to be replaced. They’re aiming to have the venue ready for late July.
4. There currently is no air conditioning
Climate control is a problem. The lounge has no air conditioning and the windows do not open. They are looking into solutions such as a heat pump.
5. Accessibility is a problem
The Victoria Curling Club was built in 1952 and has been added onto a few times over its history.
“If you spend any amount of time in this building, quite literally anywhere, there are stairs everywhere,” said Dixon. “You cannot get anywhere without going up and down a couple stairs. Even when you’re out on the ice surface quite frankly. It’s really hard to get around.”
The venue does have some chair lifts that work, but not for every staircase. They will look at trying to make it more accessible long term and are looking into grant funds.
6. Parking is an issue
Victoria curling club does not have its own parking lot. The parking lot behind the venue is run by Robbins Parking and is fairly costly. There is some free street parking around in the evenings. Parking is a bigger challenge when there is an event happening at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre at the same time.
7. Security logistics are being worked out
The curling club’s main concern with security is how to get people from outside to upstairs without having people wandering around the club. Logistics to sort out for who hires security is still being worked out.
8. Can the main floor where the curling ice is be used for a show?
The capacity of the main floor where curling takes place is 1450 people. In 2022 Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest used the floor as a venue for the first time since 2010. It was also used for World Junior Hockey Championships viewing parties in December 2018. The lounge’s liquor licence does not cover the main floor. Any event taking place there would require a special event liquor licence.
There is currently a brine leak at one section of the floor which is currently visible as a dark spot on the curling ice surface. Dixon says that will need be addressed this summer and they don’t know if that will be an easy or difficult fix. He also says that within the next two years they will likely need to replace the floor entirely. There are discussions on if they want to have a sand floor for curling and then have some way of covering it for events or if they will have other events in the main room at all.