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Winnipeggers dig deep to help historic concert venue through coronavirus pandemic

The Park Theatre.
The Park Theatre. Abigail Turner / Global News

Manitoba continues to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some sectors are back up and running to (near) pre-coronavirus levels, one of the hardest-hit remains the live entertainment business.

One of Winnipeg’s foremost live music venues, the Park Theatre, is among those struggling after months of closure due to the pandemic. Supporters of the South Osborne staple are raising funds online to help keep the venue afloat.

A GoFundMe campaign was started by Winnipegger Mat Perlman to help the Park and its owner Erick Casselman weather the difficult period between its limited-capacity reopening and the day when it’ll be back to business as usual.

“At this point, it’s hard for me to sit back and watch such a good person suffer with such financial burden and uncertainty,” said Perlman on the fundraising page.

“I’ve seen (Casselman) help so many people and I’d like it if we can give a hand right back.

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“So my hope is that we can all rally together to make sure the doors are still open when all this is done and that a good person doesn’t have to be overwhelmed with debt.”

As of Monday morning, the fundraiser had reached over $6,810 of its $20,000 goal.

READ MORE: ‘We’re bleeding’: Manitoba restaurant, bar owners say Phase 3 doesn’t go far enough

In a note to the fundraiser’s supporters, Casselman said he initially turned down the idea of accepting donations but changed his mind when he realized how difficult the pandemic would make keeping the venue open.

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“It’s tough to admit that sometimes you cannot just do things on your own. For someone as stubborn as I am, I thought that if I worked a little harder, or sacrificed a little more, things would work out. But that is not always the case.
“When Mat first asked me if he could help out in any way, and start a fund, I was adamant in saying no. Too many other people needed help, why should a business receive support, when there are those in need?
“As the weeks went by I kept up a brave face and thought, OK, I got this. Three months later, and seeing we will be a few more months till we are back to normal operations, well, I know that we won’t make it to the end without some support. “
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Casselman said he’s extremely thankful for friends and members of the community for their generosity.
Not long before the pandemic started, the more than 100-year-old venue completed a major facelift to replace a crumbling exterior, which includes brickwork that was completed prior to the Second World War.

Winnipeg concert photographer Dwayne Larson is a regular fixture at the Park, and he told 680 CJOB the venue is important to the city’s arts community beyond just the music scene.

“The Park Theatre is such an amazing live event venue. They hold an array of events that might not ever see the light of day — from burlesque, live music and classic movie screenings.

“The staff are always welcoming and we need to show how much we care and appreciate them.”

Larson has also teamed up with other local photographers to sell prints of photos taken at the Park, with all funds raised going to the venue.

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Click to play video 'Winnipeg musical acts come together for fundraiser' Winnipeg musical acts come together for fundraiser
Winnipeg musical acts come together for fundraiser