Businesses change but the idea is the successful part of the business
Times Changed has created a scene. People love the bands that John Scoles brings in from out of town. The venue provides a place for local bands to get a gig, release an album and sell out a venue. It’s become the go-to spot for people who support live music; a place for artists to hone their stage skills, Romi Mayes, The Perpatrators come to mind, but also players like Sky Onasson, Chris Carmichael, Joanna Miller. Sure Romi travels more, plays in Winnipeg less but that leaves more nights open for new acts, bands like The Empty Standards who play the Times Changed more often.
Although there is a chance of losing the building, John Scoles can move the business. There’s no reason that the shows can’t go on. Over the years, his audience base has grown and they will follow the music. I thought with the Jets coming back to town that the music scene would suffer. But more people are accepting the downtown for a viable place to party, attend events, even have a date. The Jets and their ticket craziness has actually helped the music scene by not providing the choice to many music fans to attend the hockey games.
An example of the “idea” being moved is in Aqua Books, moving from Garry Street to Princess Avenue. The bookstore, come restaurant and music venue, recently moved out of their Garry location onto Princess because the owner, Kelly Hughes, is dedicated to his vision of a Cultural City Hall. If John Scoles loses his rental property, he will have to work to condense his vision of The High and Lonesome Club. These are business decisions and the mistake is forgetting to make the “idea” transferrable. In this case, Scoles knew that losing his lease was one of his risks to keeping the business alive. If he cannot transfer his idea to another location, look to the owner’s ambition, not to redevelopment of downtown businesses. He found that hole in the wall, he can go out and find another and create just as magnetic a space.
When it was announced that Times Changed was at risk, cries went up about history, architecture, parking and Winnipeg. But it’s not a referendum on surface parking lots, Sam Katz or anything else like that. A scene can be created anywhere. It’s about making people comfortable; it’s about somewhere fun. Part of the reason to open a dive bar is to have it low rent and low visibility, so that people can have fun. It’s for the scene. When the scene matures, or the neighbourhood matures, it’s natural that the bar outlives its space and can move on and find a new hovel. I suggest Ellice or Sargent, closer to my house. Scoles is an entertainer and those kind of people can do it anywhere. But will he keep it going?