Non-profit group gives Hermann’s Jazz Club new lease on life

New operators are taking command of Hermann’s Jazz Club on July 15, as the Arts On View Society has secured a five-year lease on the live-music venue.

The non-profit community group, which formerly operated as the Jazz on View Society, will now assume operational duties of the building’s ground floor at 753 View St., which includes the jazz club and the neighbouring View Street Social Club.

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“It would have been such a huge loss to the community, who can now breathe a sigh of relief that it has a new lease on life,” said Bill Turner, chairman of Arts On View. “The support from the community is what made this happen.”

Arts On View reached a tentative deal with the family of late owner Hermann Nieweler in March. The deal was contingent upon the society raising $75,000 for venue improvements and a deposit on the lease. Those demands were met April 15 when a fundraising push raised $93,695 through various means. The society has spent the intervening months on the paperwork that needed to be completed before the deal could go forward.

Nieweler’s three children still own the building, which they inherited following Nieweler’s death in 2015, but all operations and licenses will be transferred to Arts On View by July 15.

The push for a lease agreement goes back to 2017, when Nieweler’s family gave the society an opportunity to purchase the building for $3 million. An initial fundraising push did not meet that goal, but the society remained in contact with the owners. The Victoria Jazz Society has run events at Hermann’s in the time since, and also staged concerts upstairs last month as part of this year’s TD Victoria International Jazz Festival at the site of the long-defunct Yuk Yuk’s comedy club.

That venue was not included in the lease agreement, but could be used for special events, Turner said. “The broader vision is to lease the entire building and use areas of it as a community performing arts centre,” he added.

The new deal keeps alive the longest continuously running jazz club in Canada, a venue that showcases both the local jazz community and touring artists. Diana Krall and Michael Bublé made appearances there during the early part of their careers, and Wynton Marsalis has dropped in to play on several occasions.

Current staff will remain with the club, and the society is looking to make improvements to the venue’s kitchen, among other areas. The five-year plan is to take the society from operators to owners, Turner said.

“Beyond that, our other goal is to buy the building. We want to keep [the club] going and ultimately buy it, so that the community will have permanent control of the facility.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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