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Hermann’s Upstairs set to close doors March 31, jazz club to remain open

Not enough revenue from food and beverage, club closure temporary at this point
Hermann’s Upstairs is a small venue in Victoria, B.C. known to host blues, rock, jazz, EDM shows and more. (Brad Edwards)

Hermann’s Upstairs is closing on March 31 – at least for the time being.

The Jazz Club located downstairs is to remain open.

Hermann’s Upstairs, a main stage venue with a capacity of 200 plus lounge located at View Street, officially opened in May of 2022 and is now set to close its doors on March 31, 2024.

“We’ve tried all kinds of different programming and the bottom line is just trying to make it financially viable,” said Clay Barber, executive director of Arts on View Society, which operates the venue.

Barber has been executive director for just over a year (since November 2022), taking over after the organization saw several different executive directors at the helm over the course of a few years.

READ MORE: Metamorphosis of music club elevates audience experience

The Arts on View Society operates three businesses in the View Street building: Hermann’s Upstairs, Hermann’s Jazz Club and View Street Social. The society took over in 2019 from the Hermann Nieweler’s estate. Neiweler, the club’s founder and longtime owner passed in 2015.

Barber said Arts on View’s vision to create a Performing Arts Centre in the building hasn’t changed.

“We have been in discussions with our landlord, the family of Hermann Nieweler, and we proposed a rent relief program to give us some breathing room,” Barber said in an emailed statement on behalf of the Society. “We have been executing our plan to deal with the reality of lower sales and higher costs, including implementing cost-cutting measures and moving to build new revenue streams such as group ticket sales, venue and show sponsorship, similar to other arts organizations.”

He continued, saying the organization reached a point with the slow season coming up that the more drastic step of ceasing the upstairs operations became necessary.

“This change allows us to focus specifically on the operations of Hermann’s Jazz Club and View Street Social while we explore new ways of programming the upstairs space in a financially viable manner,” Barber wrote.

Even when Hermann’s Upstairs was filled, Barber said they were not seeing enough revenues due to 80 per cent of the ticket revenue going to the band, and the difficulties in securing enough revenue from food and beverage.

A major challenge for the operation is that the building has one operating kitchen which is attached to the Jazz Club downstairs. In order for food to be served upstairs, wait staff have to navigate a long hallway and carry the food up a large flight of stairs. Upstairs also doesn’t operate in a way that’s as conducive to serving food as the Jazz Club, where people are seated at assigned tables and can order table service throughout the show.

Arts on View also cites the pandemic as a major challenge following their takeover of 753 View Street in 2019.

“Despite that, Arts on View was able to keep Hermann’s and View Street Social open and even presented shows when public health restrictions allowed,” Barber’s statement reads.

The Jazz Club is not in danger of closing, though they are still recovering from the pandemic lull.

“Our recovery from the pandemic was slower than even we anticipated,” Barber said, adding that this year has been better than last, when revenues were still about a third lower than before the pandemic.

“But this year, our February was stellar. As good as a December.”

He attributes that to the improved quality and consistency of the food.

“The percentage of patrons who actually eat during a show has increased drastically,” he said, adding that food makes up about 50 per cent of the revenue at Hermann’s.

As the pandemic waned, the opportunity to acquire the second floor dance club arose, providing a long-desired opportunity to run the entire building, which includes four venues (including the Upstairs Lounge).

“Upstairs allowed us to create a niche for those who love to dance while maintaining an intimate listening experience downstairs,” said Barber’s written statement.

Despite all the challenges of the past three years, Barber gave assurances Arts on View will go on.

“We are still here, providing outstanding local, national and international live music and supporting our artists,” his statement reads. “But, our journey to pandemic recovery is not over yet.”

READ MORE: Hermann’s Jazz Club part of family feud

Hermann’s Upstairs is closing on March 31, 2024. (Courtesy Hermann’s Upstairs)

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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