Gottingen Street’s Bus Stop Theatre Co-Operative has finalized the purchase of the property it’s housed in, and the victory is bitter-sweet, says executive director Sébastien Labelle.
“It feels surreal,” Labelle says. “We’ve spent so much time and effort on this over the last two years, but now having it done it’s almost hard to believe,” he says.
The theatre, operating since 2003, is the only independently operated, accessible, professionally equipped, flexible performance space in Halifax.
In early 2019, the building that the Co-Operative rented the space from went up for sale.
The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale
In fear of having to close its doors, Labelle rallied community members and called for financial support from government to fund purchasing the building and keep the space.
Earlier this year, the Halifax Regional Municipality and provincial government agreed to partially fund the purchase and renovation costs, respectively.
When the pandemic hit, Labelle says he was nervous about everything falling through.
“It just felt like the worst time to be asking for donations… But, thankfully again, people came through and it just shows how much people believe in the bus stop,” Labelle says.
The purchase closed on July 30 and Labelle says he is grateful for all the support from the community.
“It feels really incredible and heart-warming,” Labelle says.
“Much gratitude to everybody who’s supported us over the last two years, either by providing expertise, or offering money or time, or just sharing their voice and advocating.”
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But, Labelle says the pandemic gives an unexpected “mix of emotions” in the team’s celebration.
They have the building, but because they can’t host events, their operations are still in jeopardy.
“We’ve now saved the theatre, but of course, we can’t do theatre,” Labelle says.
Nonetheless, Labelle says finalizing the purchase is good news and financially, the Co-Operative is in a much better place.
He says the estimated cost of purchasing the building, renovation and administration is still around $1.2 million.
With no live performances scheduled, Labelle says there is more openings in the Bus Stop’s schedule to begin renovations.
Labelle says the team is focused on transitioning into a recording and broadcasting space, rather than just live performance to accommodate health requirements of COVID-19 while still allowing artists to use the space.
“It’s only in September that we’re looking at welcoming audiences again. Because of the small size of our venue… there’s only a very small number of audiences that can come into the Bus Stop at a time,” he says.
Labelle says without ticket revenue, he hopes the government will keep supporting the theatre through the pandemic.
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