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Winnipeg venues cancelling, downsizing New Year’s Eve plans

Many Winnipeg businesses and entertainment venues are either cancelling or drastically downsizing New Year’s Eve celebrations amid tighter restrictions from the province and surging COVID-19 caseloads.

The Times Changed High & Lonesome Club has closed its doors and cancelled all of its shows between now and Jan. 12.

“This is a natural for us in our community-oriented approach to bite the bullet and say, well, it’s not fair to force the musicians, the staff to be working when it’s deemed not safe,” John Scoles, who calls himself the president and janitor of Times Changed High & Lonesome Club, told Global News.

“I didn’t want to close, I wanted to find a way to do it, but it’s just not fair to all the people, it’s not fair to what we believe in. You do things you don’t want to do sometimes because it’s for the greater good. That’s the whole issue here.”

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Scoles says closing meant they had to cancel 12 shows, including the nearly sold-out New Year’s Eve show.

“We were on track to have a sold-out night, a great show. Couple of local bands, very popular. We would have had an excellent evening,” he said.

Scoles says they’ve received substantial support from the federal government and the community.

“There’s a handful of music venues in town here that are lucky as there’s been excellent federal government funding for us,” Scoles said. “So I’m able to pay out money to musicians whose gigs have been cancelled. Not everybody will be able to do that — not everybody will want to do that — but we want to and we can, and we’ve got support for shows going forward which is a really big deal.”

He says his staff remain his number one concern, as well as what the impact of the closures will be in the weeks and months ahead.

“I’m concerned about the staff. They sacrificed (a lot). I’ve got a loyal staff, they continue to stick with us through this,” he said, noting that a member of the community even set up a GoFundMe campaign to help his staff.

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“(But) there’s only so far that can go, there’s only so long that can last. Eventually people say, ‘I got to do something else’. And then they can’t come back, and then you’ve lost a great staff member, and that’s tough.”

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Several other businesses have posted online that they’ve cancelled New Year’s Eve plans, including Fame Nightclub and the Pyramid Cabaret. The Palomino Club posted on its Facebook page that it intends to hold a New Year’s Eve event.

The Forks has cancelled its fireworks display again this year, but a spokesperson told Global News skating is still open and some vendors will be open on New Year’s Eve as well, with capacity restrictions in place and alcohol service ending at 10 p.m.

Ravi Ramberran, the owner of Four Crowns Restaurant and Bar, said they initially had a New Year’s Eve celebration planned, but are now making do with the current restrictions and downsizing drastically.

Four Crowns Restaurant & Bar owner Ravi Ramberran says they’ve downsized their New Year’s Eve plans drastically.

Marney Blunt / Global News

“We’re going to try to play the game as safe as possible. Just dinner — no party, no loud music, no craziness. We want people to feel very, very comfortable and secure,” Ramberran said.

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Ramberran says he also continues to be impressed by the community support he’s received throughout each round of restrictions.

“I love this city. Winnipeg just steps up big time and supports local,” he said.

“Times are changing. Financially, it’s going to hurt again, but hopefully we’re going to roll through this one and hopefully it doesn’t last too long this time.”

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