February 8, 2023


After a well-publicized purchase from the City of Kitchener and extensive renovations, the Boathouse in Victoria Park is open for business once again.

The popular music hub and Kitchener staple was closed in September 2013 due to the need for a complete update of the venue’s facilities. It was purchased from the City of Kitchener by Bill MacTavish, owner of Imbibe Food’n’Drink, and his investor Mark Forwell. After many delays due to extensive renovations to the space, the Boathouse officially opened to the public on Jan. 11. Its grand opening was on Feb. 24.

According to a Nov. 9, 2014 article in the Waterloo Region Record, Forwell and MacTavish quadrupled the seating capacity of the historic building and installed a full commercial kitchen and state-of-the-art sound system for local musicians.

Although the main attraction of the Boathouse will still be the live music acts that perform there on weekends, Natalie Herzig, the new front of house manager, said there will also be more of a focus on the dining experience provided to patrons.

“We definitely have more of a focus on food,” she said. “We have an awesome local and eclectic menu with food sourced from local farms.

MacTavish and Forwell have bands booked solid for the next month. On Feb. 21 Ties That Bind, first-time performers at the Boathouse, took the stage. Sean Gilders, bassist in Ties That Bind and former patron of the old Boathouse, said he was impressed with renovations and the experience of performing at the venue.

“The size is probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed,” Gilders said. “I don’t know if it’s twice as big or if it’s a third bigger. It’s also cleaned up a little bit so it’s not quite as rustic, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good groove for a music venue.”

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