Live entertainment and dining to return to Victoria Park Boathouse
Kitchener – With Kitchener council’s approval today of the proposal by a local restaurateur, the city’s vision for a live entertainment and dining venue in Victoria Park is expected to be a reality by this summer. The city and Bill MacTavish, owner of Imbibe, a popular downtown Kitchener restaurant, will complete renovations to the Boathouse over the next few months. There has always been strong community support to see the Boathouse operate as a live entertainment and food and beverage venue, and the City of Kitchener’s economic development strategy has a solid focus on developing both the music and culinary clusters.
“There is a comprehensive and transformational plan to see the Boathouse open this summer,” explained Rod Regier, the city’s executive director of economic development. “It’s an aggressive timeline, but we are quite pleased with the vision for the Boathouse. With Bill’s experience in the industry, we are confident that the Boathouse will be a lively hub for our growing music sector and culinary cluster.”
MacTavish believes there is an untapped opportunity and is optimistic about the future of the Boathouse. His renovation plans include opening up the space to almost double the seating capacity, improving the existing washrooms, and installing state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. The menu will showcase local produce and craft beer, and the entertainment lineup will be diverse to appeal to a wider range of audiences.
“This little building is an important venue in our community, and I am committed to the vision set out by the city and the public,” MacTavish said. “The Boathouse will serve as a place that brings local art, local music, local food and local beverages all under one roof. The Boathouse will once again be a pillar in the community. There's a lot of work to be done, but so much to look forward to.”
In approving the lease and the city’s responsibilities for leasehold improvements, Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr noted that the investment today speaks to the community’s passion for the future of this venue.
“Victoria Park is the jewel of this city, and with the many festivals, events and activities in the park, it is important to the vitality of our community and our civic pride,” said Mayor Zehr. “I am excited about the commitment to the Boathouse and look forward to even more vibrancy in both the city core and the park.”
The Boathouse was originally built to store canoes and provide basic shelter for skate changing, yet over the years the Boathouse has been a teahouse, a pub and most recently a bar with live music. The city will invest approximately $400,000 for typical landlord responsibilities such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and accessibility requirements. The new operator will be spending an estimated $168,000 for additional renovations and start-up costs.