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Searching for ways to keep music playing at The Royal

Howie Ross (left) and Paul Hinrichs hope music lovers in the community will step forward to help the The Royal on Baker. - Samuel Dobrin photo
Howie Ross (left) and Paul Hinrichs hope music lovers in the community will step forward to help the The Royal on Baker.
— image credit: Samuel Dobrin photo

It’s been a year since Paul Hinrichs and Howie Ross took over ownership of The Royal on Baker.

The space had been slated for redevelopment. Divided into two spaces, The Royal could have been a bar on one side and a t-shirt store on the other.

But with the vision of saving the business, Hinrichs and Ross bought The Royal.

Even though they bring in some of the biggest acts in Canadian and international music, Nelson is at risk of once again losing The Royal.

“It’s real estate and it’s for sale,” said Hinrichs. “There are people coming through here regularly. There are showings. We schedule around it sometimes. It’s actively on the market. Our landlord has done great work in the building and wants to sell it.”

The pair recently launched a campaign to Save the Royal with a goal of raising $75,000 to help secure a long term lease for the space.

Ross said he knows people are uncomfortable with the idea of donating money to a business, and understands how they feel, but said The Royal is the community’s venue.

“When [Hinrichs] and I took over, our feeling has always been and it never wavered, it looks like a business we own but we never quite looked at it that way,” said Ross. “We always saw it as the community’s venue. Now it’s at the point where the community has the opportunity to step up and really be there and save The Royal.”

This fall, The Royal was named the Best Live Music Venue in the BC Interior, but as Hinrichs and Ross said, the title has come with a big price tag.

“It’s a small room and it’s a small market,” said Hinrichs. “We’re focusing on the shows, the music and providing the highest quality entertainment we can and that comes with a sizeable price tag. It’s expensive. People see this as a bar with people lined up outside and see a lot of traffic and money, but it costs a lot too.”

In the last year, The Royal has hosted acts like Dan Mangan, Bill Frisell, John Mayall, Leon Russell and Maria Muldaur.

Even though their shared love of music was one of the motivations for purchasing the venue, Hinrichs and Ross wanted to build Nelson as a destination for music between Vancouver and Calgary.

“We’re a destination now,” said Hinrichs. “We are offered incredible acts on a regular basis, but because of the finances and logistics of bringing them here we have to say no. We’ve been successful in building Nelson as a destination because we had the venue and there was a need for it geographically and in our community. We’re serving that need.”

As a result people routinely travel from around the area and even from the US and elsewhere in BC to see musicians at The Royal.

Hinrichs and Ross have to give notice to the landlord in January if they wish to renew their lease.

In addition to online fundraising through the website indiegogo.com/savetheroyal,  events are being organized to help raise the money needed to secure The Royal’s future.

“The money is to secure the short term future so we can enable the long term future,” said Ross.

“It’s so we can go into this next lease and take it to the next phase.”

If The Royal is unable to achieve its target, they will likely enter into another 18-month lease, but will look at the possibility of introducing memberships and are even discussing the possibility of forming a society or co-op.

For more information on the Save The Royal campaign find them on Facebook.

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