Non-Profit Seeks to Save Hermann’s Jazz Club

The Campaign

There is a GoFundMe fundraising campaign currently underway that hopefully would facilitate purchase of the building that has housed Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria, British Columbia for over 30 years. The estate of Hermann Nieweler has offered the non-profit Jazz on View Society a six-month option to purchase the building for $3 million, with an October 30, 2017 deadline to consummate the deal.

One of Canada’s best-known jazz venues, Hermann’s Jazz Club was founded by Hermann Nieweler, who died in 2015 at age 79. His family inherited the brick building housing the club and two other businesses, and while they have continued to keep the club operational, have decided not to do so on a long-term basis.

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Jazz on View is a registered society whose purpose is to create a charitable organization that would assume the financial responsibilities of operating Hermann’s Jazz Club. The group’s primary aim is to keep Hermann’s alive as an all-ages music venue with an emphasis on jazz.

Anticipated Benefits

According to a spokesman, “If we are able to own the whole building, we would secure its location with a sustainable rent. The returns to musicians would improve. The restaurant would operate in a way that contributes to improving the venue. The other two establishments will be rented, and the revenue beyond expenses (triple net and improvements) will grow an endowment: a foundation for music. Hermann’s will become a self-sustaining entity – with no need to apply for grants or continuously fundraise to support its ends.”

Non-Profit Seeks to Save Hermann’s Jazz Club
(photo by Suzette Leeming)

In addition to the current $30,000 on-line campaign (www.gofundme.com/hermanns), there has been considerable community support for the efforts of Jazz on View to purchase the building. A benefit concert in February raised more than $80,000 in verbal pledges.

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History of Club

Hermann’s Jazz Club began 36 years ago at the Bastion Inn when Hermann Nieweler was persuaded to book Friday Harbor’s Island City Jazz Band for a weekend performance at his hotel. Hermann’s love for a good party, the music and the patrons, had him establish the Dixieland Inn at the hotel.

Hermann moved the club to the current View Street location in 1986 when it was renamed “Hermann’s Jazz Club.” In 2000, the building suffered heavy damage from a fire. A testament to his commitment, Hermann rebuilt at great personal expense.

Artifacts on Walls

Many nationally and internationally-acclaimed acts have graced its stage. Longtime bands at the club include the CanUS Hot Jazz Band, Tom Vickery Trio, and Dixieland Express. Walking into Hermann’s, which presents jazz seven nights a week, a visitor cannot help but notice the countless pictures of musical friends, the old instruments, and the eclectic artifacts hanging on the walls.

A baritone saxophone on the wall near the front entrance of the club is a gift to Hermann from Alfred the Flower Man. Hermann had a blacksmith make a mount to place it in the spot he picked. There is a pair of home stereo speakers still mounted high on a wall because they were his first set of speakers

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There is a broken clarinet hanging from the time a drunk fell into the bandstand and broke Al Pease’s clarinet. Hermann got his insurance to pay for a new one. Another relic is an accordion in the corner, which belonged to a player who performed there in the early ’90s. After the show, the accordionist told Hermann that he desperately needed to get to northern Ontario to see his ailing mother and asked for a $750 loan, with Hermann holding the accordion as collateral. Also on the walls are the many plaques in gratitude for Hermann’s many years in support of high school bands.

Patrick Boyle, an associate professor of jazz studies at the University of Victoria, has referred to Hermann’s as “both sanctuary and laboratory for improvising musicians. It is among the most important institutions worldwide that support and sustain jazz music.”

(UPDATE: The campaign has now closed.)

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