The pressure is on for Luke Menkes, owner of The Royal building, to find a new commercial tenant to take over the restaurant and live music venue after the current operators vacate at the end of the month.
Menkes ran the popular Baker Street bar from 2009 to 2011 before penning a deal with the current operators, Paul Hinrichs and Howie Ross, who would lease the operation and all the equipment to run it on a trial basis, with the option of buying everything after 18 months.
In November, with the end of their lease approaching, Hinrichs and Ross launched the Save the Royal Indiegogo campaign to raise the $75,000 they would need to permanently take over the business. But after coming under public scrutiny, they called off fundraising effort and announced The Royal would cease operation as of May 1.
But Menkes says that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
“It’s not like the clock will strike midnight and The Royal will be no more,” Menkes says. “In my heart, I really want to keep it a live music venue. I just need to find somebody who can run it.”
Menkes, who has family obligations that require he live in Kelowna, was in Nelson over the Easter long weekend touring potential tenants through the space.
He says if he can’t find a tenant to move in May 1, he may have to run the club himself in the short term. But that’s the worse case scenario.
What he hopes is to find a restaurateur who will turn The Royal into a food-primary establishment, and then either he or somebody else will book live acts to come through on the side, maybe 10 nights out of the month.
“I can do the bookings remotely from Kelowna if I have to,” he says.
There’s still a lot of variables at play. But Menkes says it’s unlikely the Royal would stop being a live music venue. Rather there will just be a shift in focus.
“Will there be music there six nights out of the week? Probably not,” he says. “But will the patio be open for people to eat and have a drink out there during the day? I think so.”
Menkes and his realtor John Knox are also looking for buyers for seven other units in the upper levels of the building.
In the spring of 2011 the city give Menkes the green light to stratify the three-storey Royal building into smaller commercial and residential units that could be sold separately.
Many of the building’s existing commercial tenants — including Transcendent Fitness Centre, Swingers Squash Club and Sutherland & Associates — continue to lease their space but have the option to buy if they choose.
Some upscale residential condos were also created, including a two-bedroom luxury penthouse suite that’s listed for nearly $450,000 and a second-floor, micro-loft that was listed for just under $75,000 and recently sold.
Menkes acknowledged that it might be easier to sell the residential units with a restaurant on main floor, rather than a night club. But that isn’t his motivation in trying to change the focus of the operation.
“I just want to do what’s right for this market,” he said. “There’s a limited number of entertainment dollars to go around, so if you saturate the market with live music every night of the week, you’re going to have a lot of nights where the place is half empty. But if you have fewer concerts, and they really feel like a special event, people will come out for that.”