A number of local and touring bands are scrambling to find new venues after The Royal closed suddenly Wednesday morning.
The popular Baker Street music venue was set to transition to new operators as of May 1, but a dispute between the building owner and outgoing management team has left the bar closed until further notice.
At issue was the transfer of the bar’s liquor license. On Tuesday Luke Menkes, a Kelowna realtor and owner The Royal building, demanded in an email to the current operators — Paul Hinrichs and Howie Ross — that they sign an agreement to transfer the liquor license over to his name so he could continue booking concerts at the venue into May. He threatened immediate eviction if they did not comply.
Ross had his own list of demands for Menkes, which he outlined in an emailed response. All their correspondence was copied to the Star, and other stakeholders.
Ross asked that Menkes quit with the eviction threats, return a financial deposit and stop sending their emails to the press. If those conditions were met, he said he would cooperate in transferring the liquor license.
The emails raged back and forth. Ross accused Menkes of extortion; Menkes accused Ross of continued non-compliance with their lease.
Early Wednesday morning The Royal staff cleared their belongings and all the liquor out of the bar and also removed the liquor license, which usually hangs on the wall.
Menkes changed the locks and posted a notice on the door to cancel the majority of events booked for April, advising people who had bought tickets to contact the proprietor of Urban Legends (Ross).
At least 10 events have been affected, including a fundraiser for Nelson Cares this Thursday and Michelle Mungall’s re-election fundraiser next Friday. Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra was going to play a 4/20 event and Adham Shaikh had a CD release party booked for April 27.
Some of the events will be moved to Spiritbar, including tonight’s Electric Wednesday Open Stage hosted by Estevan Artmin. Finley’s Irish Pub will host the David Newberry show on Thursday.
Menkes is scrambling to get a new liquor license at The Royal as soon as possible, but he says it could take months to get the application through the liquor control board.
He’s also looking into whether he can run the venue without serving alcohol, in hopes of doing that for the Mungall fundraiser.
The Star requested comment from Hinrichs and Ross on Wednesday morning. Neither offered their perspective on the dispute, though Hinrichs said he would be in touch with his plan for re-scheduling the shows (those details are included in a separate story here).
Neither The Royal website nor its Facebook page had any information about the closure as of Wednesday afternoon. Menkes said he’s trying to get access to those pages to post information about what’s going on.