For the fourth time in six months, the owners of Evolution Wonderlounge in downtown Edmonton are looking at costly repairs.
Early Thursday morning, there was a break-in at the gay dance club and entertainment lounge. It appears that one person broke in through the front door and left “with an undisclosed amount of cash,” Edmonton Police Service officials said.
The incident is being investigated and anyone with relevant information is asked to contact police.
“Some guy threw a rock through the window and kicked his way in at about four in the morning,” said Rob Browatzke, one of Evolution’s owners.
He estimates it caused about $10,000 in damages and property theft.
“This is the third time in six months that the door has been smashed. It’s the seventh time the door has been smashed since the beginning of the pandemic,” Browatzke said.
“It is very frustrating. Certainly the first few times that it happened, it was like a shared misery because it was a bunch of places on the block that were hit with vandalism.
“It’s the third time it’s just been us, which is starting to feel a little targeted.”
“I don’t know that it’s necessarily an anti-gay target as much as it’s just the space, the convenience of the space.”
Browatzke said he believes it was a crime of opportunity and doesn’t want to think it could be a hate crime.
“I honestly don’t want to think that, but when we’re the only business… When you’ve got the climate the way it is right now and you’ve got a Pride flag hanging outside and you’re the only place getting hit on the block, you can’t not think that.”
He explained that it’s been a long three years. Between the arena, the city and the building, there’s been near constant construction in the area, Browatzke said. And the industry was hit hard by the pandemic and closures.
“We managed to get through that with personal savings and government subsidies… We’re just trying to claw our way out of that COVID debt hole and this keeps knocking us back down,” he said.
“Luckily we have an amazing community that continues to support the events but, I mean, come on! Enough is enough.
“I love what we do. I love our community. I love downtown… I love the partnerships we’ve developed over 10 years. I love what we’re doing, but, I mean, come on.”
The city has a program that helps cover repairs for businesses downtown, Browatzke said, so he’ll be making some calls. Still, he can’t help but feel a bit deflated and defeated.
“It’s frustrating, it’s expensive, it’s annoying, it’s random,” he said. “The best security system in the world is not going to stop this from happening.
“It’s random and senseless and stop doing it.”