Kitchener music venue The Boathouse closes abruptly

The Boathouse, the iconic music venue, restaurant and bar located in the heart of Kitchener's Victoria Park, has closed after falling behind on rent and utility payments for months.

City 'committed to the Boathouse as a music venue'

Musician Mike McDonald stands outside the closed Boathouse Friday afternoon, concerned about how some of his friends will access their instruments inside. (Jane Van Koeverden/CBC)

The Boathouse, the iconic music venue, restaurant and bar located in the heart of Kitchener's Victoria Park, has closed after falling behind on rent and utility payments for months.

Normally bustling on Friday afternoons, patrons arrived at the city-owned property to find they could not enter.

"The operator is in arrears amounting to over five months of rent and utilities," the city said in a release.

The city said the Boathouse was in violation of its lease agreement and had delivered a letter on August 13 to the operator Kevin Doyle giving him 30 days to meet its terms.

The city did not close the doors of the venue, since the operator had until the end of day Friday to make his payments, said Rod Regier, executive director of economic development at the City of Kitchener.

But the city will take control of the premises Monday if no payment is made, he confirmed.

Regardless of whether or not the city takes over the establishment, it is "committed to the Boathouse as a music venue," said Regier.

"It's an iconic building. It's dearly loved by the community as a whole. It's a resource for the entire community. We're committed to keeping or reanimating it or putting it back to work in the future."

The Boathouse operator Kevin Doyle has closed the popular music venue, restaurant and bar. The City of Kitchener says Doyle is five months in arrears on rent and utility bills. (Jane van Koeverden/CBC)

A Facebook post by operator Kevin Doyle thanked patrons for their support over the last nine years.

"It kills me to say goodbye to our Boathouse but I am left no choice," the post says.

"I signed a contract that was based on certain conditions so that the business could be viable. The renovation funds were delayed and never made available. Thus making it impossible to break even."

Operator allegations 'curious'

The city has committed over $600,000 to the renovation of the venue, which the city says requires certain functional upgrades.

Regier said he found the allegations detailed in the Facebook post "a little bit curious," saying the city hadn't released the cash because Doyle hadn't paid his share.

"We need to have a plan to move forward and construction agreements and the operator needed to be able to finance his portion of the renovations such as the development of the new kitchen," Regier said.

Doyle's Facebook post also said he had been "trying negotiate a solution with the city for months with no success."

Regier said the city had been "in detailed discussions with the operator about the financial situation of course ... but the arrears still remain outstanding."

Doyle could not be immediately reached for comment, and it is not clear how long the venue would be out of operation if the city takes possession of the venue.

Guitar player Mike McDonald raced over to the site as soon as he heard the news of the closure. He was dismayed to find several instruments belonging his friends were locked inside.

"It’s an artistic gathering point in Kitchener, more so than any other place. Most places are profit-motivated," he said.

Sara Escobar, meanwhile, did not get to have the afternoon pint she was pining for.

"We usually come here after work, have a couple drinks, listen to the music. I think it’s really important to have a place like this in downtown Kitchener," she said. 

"This park used to be really dead, really lonely and actually very dangerous because there was nothing in the downtown core, especially in the park, that was positive and had live music and was creating a positive sense of community here. That’s what the Boathouse did."