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Victoria buys Hermann’s Jazz Club to sustain and support live music downtown

Artistic institution’s building and venues purchased for almost $4 million
Hermann’s Jazz Club has been bought by the City of Victoria to keep live music flowing from the downtown institution. (Black Press Media file photo)

The City of Victoria has dipped into its land acquisition fund to buy Hermann’s Jazz Club in an aim to keep live music sounding from the celebrated downtown venue.

The city on Monday (March 18) announced it paid $3.95 million for the building and business assets of Hermann’s and View Street Social, calling them an iconic downtown performance hub.

The jazz club has been an artistic institution in the capital for more than four decades as it regularly attracts world-class talent, while also providing an essential host of local music groups. After being founded by Hermann Nieweler in 1981, the site has become the longest continuously running jazz club in Canada.

The city going public with the purchase comes just a week after Hermann’s Upstairs, a 200-plus capacity music lounge in the building, announced it would be closing on March 31.

The purchase demonstrates Victoria council’s commitment to preserving and investing in music spaces downtown, Mayor Marianne Alto said in a news release.

“This venue’s importance was also identified during development of the Victoria Music Strategy, and I hope it will continue to contribute to Victoria’s vibrant arts and culture scene for years to come,” the mayor said.

The Arts on View Society, which has operated the 751 and 753 View Street venues since 2019, said Hermann’s Upstairs wasn’t generating enough revenue even when it was full.

The society will continue to focus on Hermann’s Jazz Club and View Street Social as the city’s immediate priority will be finding a new commercial tenant for the second floor. Victoria, the society and future tenants will identify opportunities to ensure the long-term success of the iconic asset, the city’s news release said.

The society applauded the city’s support for the arts and said the View Street location is among the primary locations where the city showcases its homegrown talent.

“The city’s commitment to our vision – to create and sustain a performing arts centre in downtown Victoria – could not have been better expressed than their recent purchase of the building,” Clay Barber, the society’s executive director, said in the city’s release.

The almost $4-million purchase used funds from the city’s Land Sale Reserve, which is topped up by the sale of city-owned properties and can only be put toward buying other sites.

“This strategic acquisition allows the city to play an important role in the preservation of space for live music, while also diversifying the organization’s revenue streams and real estate portfolio,” Victoria deputy city manager Thomas Soulliere said.

When it was announced Hermann’s Upstairs was closing, Barber said the jazz club wasn’t in danger of shutting down but recovering from the pandemic-induced lull was going slower than expected.

The Arts on View Society took over operating the live music site from the Nieweler estate. Neiweler died in 2015.

Stephen Nieweler, co-executor of the Nieweler estate, said his father’s leadership was irreplaceable and the goodwill he created helped bring people together to navigate challenges stemming from the pandemic, inflation and staffing.

“For 34 years, Hermann put his energy and passion towards the creation of a cozy meeting place for established and emerging musicians, and music lovers, from Victoria and Vancouver Island, while attracting talented performers and guests from around the world,” Stephen said in a statement.

“I feel assured that this national treasure will remain an integral part of the community’s rich artistic and cultural fabric for many years to come.”

The society called Victoria a city that punches above its musical weight across all genres. It’s committed to working with the city to make the revitalized Hermann’s space one that “enhances the building’s status as a cultural cornerstone, and promises to continue providing an unparalleled experience for music enthusiasts.”

With files from Sam Duerksen

READ: Hermann’s Upstairs in Victoria to close, jazz club to remain open

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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