The Paragon Theatre will be hosting its last show on May 31.
According to Mark Townsend — who helped run the venue along with business partners Craig Mercer and Peter Farmer — the lineup for the show hasn’t yet been confirmed, but Paragon and Gallery Pub merchandise will be up for grabs, including t-shirts and mugs. Farmer’s autographed paintings of artists like Pharoahe Monch, Jenn Grant and Thursh Hermit are also up for sale. And of course, there’s the task of whittling down the liquor inventory — “I imagine there will be some pretty good drink specials,” Townsend says.
As the venue lurches towards closure after two years of operation, Townsend discusses some of the reasons why things didn’t work. One issue was location: he says the venue’s original business plan was to host wedding receptions and private events as well as live music, but prospective clients were wary of the Gottingen St area around the building. “People were a bit misled about what this neighbourhood is really like,” he says. He also cites a few “devastating” cancellations due to weather or illness, and big shows scheduled during what turned out to be exam periods. “Acts of God,” he says. “You can’t control them.”
As for the rumours about the site being re-zoned for condos, Townsend says he doesn’t know enough to comment. “I really have no idea what (owner) Victor (Syperek) is doing,” he says. He and his former partners are moving on. He’s taken a job as a food and beverage manger at a hotel in the city, while Farmer is moving to Montreal to pursue art and graphic design. Mercer will continue working as a musician in Halifax.
“We don’t have a huge debt load,” he says. “We just wanted to get out before it got too big. We worked our butts off and tried hard. We lived selflessly to make it work. But I think in the end, we’re in our 30s — we needed to ensure we had money for ourselves.”
When asked about his fondest memories of the venue, Townsend immediately points to the staff. “They have been unprecedented,” he says. “Gord Campbell, Gavin Carruthers and all the staff showed so much dedication. It’s been unbelievable what they’ve done.”