Cobalt Cabaret stops booking shows, fears landlords won't complete city-mandated repairs

Vancouver music venue the Cobalt Cabaret on Main Street has stopped booking shows past April 30, fearing that the business will be forced to close if the building's owner fails to complete renovations required by the city of Vancouver.

Owner concerned business will suffer the same fate as Downtown Eastside's Balmoral Hotel

"We have seven years left on our lease for the Box Car, the Cobalt and Pizza Farina, and it leaves us in limbo," said owner and operator Patrick Drowzd. (Google Maps)

The Cobalt Cabaret, a Vancouver music venue, has stopped booking shows beyond  April 30, concerned the business will be forced to close if the building's owners fail to complete renovations required by the city.

Owner and operator Patryk Drozd said the city told him the building, which is over 100 years old, requires "extensive renovations."

The building is owned by the Sahota family, who are well known through Metro Vancouver for owning problem properties like the Balmoral Hotel, a Downtown Eastside single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel.

The building, located on Main Street at Prior Street, houses the Cobalt as well as another bar and a pizza restaurant. 

The Cobalt Cabaret has very been a friendly venue to the LGBT community for years, with long-running live music and art events, and drag shows.

Last June, the city ordered the Balmoral Hotel to be evacuated, saying the structure was at risk of collapsing, and pushing 142 people out of their homes.

"We think what happened at the Balmoral is what's going to happen at the Cobalt, where they're just going to start work and kind of pawn it off and delay, delay, delay. That's the cat and mouse game they play with the city," Drozd said.

Drozd said construction at the Baltmoral has now been stalled for six months.

"We have seven years left on our lease for the Boxcar, the Cobalt and Pizza Farina, and it leaves us in limbo."

The Sahota family did not return CBC's request for comment.

In December the city decided the bar could remain open for three more months "to minimize the impact on the local business and the performing arts community." (Trevor Burns)

City confirms

In a statement, the city of Vancouver said it has communicated with the Sahotas about the need to make repairs on the Main Street building.

"The building owners committed to doing the work, but the City found that little progress was being made against the approved work," it read in part.

Drozd said he tried to communicate with the Sahotas, but that they were unresponsive.

The city also said it learned the Sahotas had failed to communicate with their tenants.

In December, the city decided the bar could remain open — even though renovations were required — for three more months "to minimize the impact on the local business and the performing arts community."

"We understand that the owners intend to start construction in early May," the city statement read. "The City is not aware of when the work will actually commence or who the owners have contracted to complete the work."

The statement said the work could take three months, but Drozd, who has a background in construction, said he fears it could take much longer.

"The whole building needs to be repaired. And they think they're just going to come into The Cobalt and fix three pillars to do structural reinforcement? Give me a break," he said.

Drozd said Vancouver can't afford to lose another live music venue.

"Everyone loves us and the Cobalt's been amazing for so many people to start, there's such a lack of small stages in Vancouver that fit that need," said Drozd.

"But helping us — where does a business like the Cobalt go if the Cobalt doesn't re-open here?"