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J Lounge closed, threatened with seizure

'Our hope is that the J Lounge returns': Jones

"This is a private thing between tenant and landlord, and we're going to fix it," J Lounge manager Tony Hedayati told Xtra on Sept 21, days after a bailiff's notice on the venue's gate indicated that its contents were being seized. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

 A bailiff notice posted outside a popular gay Davie Village lounge states that its contents are being seized to recover arrears of more than $54,000 owed to the landlord.

“Unless I receive the said sum of $54,448 plus costs, charges and expenses on or before 5 days from the date of this notice, I may cause the said goods to be sold as the Rent Distress Act allows and the Law permits,” reads a Sept 13 notice of seizure attached to the gate outside the J Lounge, located on Bute St.

David C Jones, of the Tops & Bottoms improv troupe, told Xtra on Sept 19 that bailiff personnel were “counting speakers and stuff like that.

“They’re not taking anything away, they’re just assessing; they’re doing inventory right now,” he notes.

Jones, whose troupe performs at the venue in a regular Monday night slot, says he found out about its troubles only when he emailed management last weekend to ask if the troupe could do an extra show on Sept 19.

Jones says he got no response and subsequently heard from someone else that it might be closed. “I was like, ‘Well we haven’t been told anything.'”

Tops & Bottoms had to move its show to The Helm on Howe St on Monday night as a result of the closure.

“This is a private thing between tenant and landlord, and we’re going to fix it,” J Lounge manager Tony Hedayati told Xtra on Sept 21, when asked about the venue’s fate in light of the posted notice.

“I think we’re going to open soon,” he says, adding that there are ongoing negotiations with the landlord toward that end. Hedayati couldn’t give a time frame for a reopening, nor could he say if the venue would retain the name J Lounge.

Asked if the plan is to reopen in the same space, he says the venue has been there, in various incarnations, since 1983. “We have to see,” he says, though he notes that the rent is high. “We’ll let you guys know if everything goes right or wrong.”

Jones acknowledges that the area’s rent rates are “crazy” and hopes management can sort out the problem. “Honestly, the J Lounge is one of the best venues in terms of layout, in terms of being a performance space. They just got to figure out how to maximize and take advantage of it.”

He notes that J Lounge’s management has had “challenges filling the place and they’ve had challenges of keeping the people.”

He says Tops & Bottoms brings in about 80 people on Monday nights, but when the show is over, “a big chunk” of the audience heads to other places to drink and eat.

“Running a business is hard; filling a venue is hard,” Jones acknowledges. “You have to compete with what’s going on in the neighbourhood.”

While J Lounge has expanded its stage, long-running shows are not part of the entertainment mix anymore, Jones says. “We were going to do the Complete Works of William Shakespeare as a dinner theatre show in there, but they didn’t want it because it was going to run for three weeks,” he says. That show eventually played at the Jericho Arts Centre, drawing about 100 people a night, Jones estimates. “That could have been 100 that could have been at the J Lounge.”

Jones says Tops & Bottoms will be at The Helm again on Sept 26, but he hopes the troupe will be able to return to J Lounge.

“We love the venue; they’ve been very supportive of us in the past. Our hope is that the J Lounge returns.”