For the second time in six months, the future of live music at Granville Island’s Backstage Lounge is shrouded in uncertainty.
The venue’s sound engineer Nick Tyzio told the Courier he’s been left in the lurch due to a lack of communication from the venue owner — the neighbouring Arts Club Theatre Company — and pretty much anyone else he’s reached out to for answers.
“As far as I know now, we’re open for the rest of the summer,” Tyzio said. “If we stop doing live music, it’s a loss of culture for Vancouver and B.C. This shouldn’t happen. We should be regaining these things.”
News of the venue’s re-branding first broke in September 2017, when it was suggested the Backstage Lounge would become a restaurant only. The club’s final show was slated for Dec. 31, 2017, though Tyzio said that deal eventually fell apart.
Because news had circulated that live music wouldn’t continue into 2018, bands and promoters stopped coming and confusion set in.
“It’s hard to book bands when you don’t know if you’re going to be open,” Tyzio said. “Before we got the news, I was sometimes working seven days a week and now I’m down to one or two. Bands did their final show there and they didn’t want to come back because they thought they might look silly.”
The Backstage Lounge has been at its current location since 1979, and Tyzio has worked there for about a decade. The Arts Club Revue Stage and Backstage Lounge was home to Atlantic Canada House during the 2010 Olympics and hosted gigs by the likes of Sloan, Hey Rosetta! and Ashley MacIsaac.
Should the music be silenced, there will be virtually no live music locations in Vancouver west of Cambie Street (other than downtown). The Fairview Pub near Oak Street and Broadway could be lost due to a redevelopment application.
“Everybody is in shock,” Tyzio said. “Everyone works there because it has live music. They love live music. This was like a sledgehammer to the head for everyone.”
Arts Club publicist Sarah Barton-Bridges was short on details in an email to the Courier.
“We are currently looking into updating the Backstage Lounge into what would be a more sustainable model for the venue,” she said. “This is a long-term project, so the lounge will remain open as is throughout the summer while we research best options. The vision is that the venue will remain a casual place for food and drink on Granville Island.”
A follow-up email from the Courier asked how those changes would affect the dozens employed there, and for a definitive yes or no on the future of live music at the club.
“Staffing levels are fluid throughout the year usually, with summer always being the peak,” Barton-Bridges responded. “And at this point, we are still looking into options and ideas for the venue but hope to have more details on what that will look like soon.”
Tyzio said he’s reached out to Vancouver-Centre MP Hedy Fry for help, a route that he says has gotten him nowhere. Vancouver-East MP Jenny Kwan told Tyzio she’s written a letter of support to keep the venue operating as is and has sent it to the Arts Club.
Fry, meanwhile, left a voicemail for the Courier suggesting nothing is happening to the venue outside of routine renovations.
“The Backstage Lounge on Granville Island isn’t closing for any other reason than that they’re trying to reinvent themselves,” Fry said. “They’re trying to upgrade and update all kinds of things.”
Tyzio’s lobbying efforts to keep live music on Granville Island are online at keepbackstagelive.com.