The Tranzac, the cultural centre in the heart of the Annex, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Monday night, and the Board of Directors delivered dire news. “Last year the Tranzac suffered a loss of $48,000,” a handout distributed to the room read. “We now find ourselves in the situation where we need a short term injection of funds by the new year, or we may be faced with the prospect of closing our doors or reducing our operations.”
“Last year was a bad year,” acknowledges outgoing president John Sladek.
While the previous three years had been relatively stable for the arts and culture hub, tucked away just south of the busy corner of Bloor and Brunswick, from June 2009 to June 2010, the not-for-profit club saw its property taxes rise by more than half due to a (still contested) assessment that doubled the building’s value on paper; had to spend a significant amount on repairing its furnace, and other unexpected building expenditures; had to double its security budget to keep noisy outdoor revelers inside after 11 p.m. to mollify its residential neighbors; and had its product cost (namely, booze) jump while its revenue fell, due in part to the recession and the HST.
This litany of woes doesn’t even factor in the loss of its biggest annual income generator, the Fringe Festival, which made a highly publicized move to Mirvish Village this July, just after the Tranzac’s financial reporting period ended. Currently, an independent financial audit is being done on the Tranzac’s books—crucial to applying for government grants and funding—but it won’t be ready until 2011.
This isn’t the first time the Tranzac has had to claw its way back from near-bankruptcy; in fact, since 2004, every AGM contains a motion to re-approve “Bylaw Number 1,” which gives the Board of Directors authority to negotiate the sale of the clubhouse on an emergency timeline, to prevent receivership going to an outside party. The bylaw is an ominous reminder that the club has been barely making ends meet for the past decade, after more than forty years in the community. It also raises the question: after so long, is the current location essential to the Tranzac’s continued existence?
Incoming president Michael Booth, acclaimed in Monday’s meeting to warm applause (he and Sladek have worked together closely before on the board of directors for the Mariposa Festival), certainly thinks so. “This is a venue that has survived,” he says, citing the Annex Theatre, where he worked for years, as an example of a historic building that’s been lost as a venue for Torontonians. “The Tranzac’s still here, and that’s more than half the battle.”
Despite the daunting task of having to raise more than forty thousand dollars in ninety days to save the club, the Tranzac’s executive members are optimistic. They know the club has untapped potential and is worth saving, and have faith that their patrons and the community at large feel the same way. And, says board member Stuart Duncan, “We have a plan.”
Created by Sladek (who will remain on board as a vice president, reaching out to sub-groups who use the club), the Tranzac’s publicist (and Out of This Spark music label founder) Duncan, and Board Member-at-Large Bob Wiseman, the short-term fundraising plan calls for a series of smaller concerts in the next couple of months, plus one large-scale concert, and a blowout fundraiser version of the perennially popular New Year’s Eve concert. (Booth has been busy these past six years working as David Miller’s arts and culture adviser; in a few weeks, he’ll have much more time to spearhead the plan.) The board is confident it can attract musical guests and headliners who’ve played the Tranzac and gone on to success; says Booth: “There are a lot of people who spent the formative years of their career at this venue.”
Another aspect of the plan—more details of which will be discussed at a public meeting at the Tranzac on Monday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m.—is to kick-start the Tranzac’s first large-scale membership drive (the basic $25 membership includes a t-shirt). Many fans of the venue, which hosts everything from concerts to cultural initiatives to community groups, likely aren’t aware of the Tranzac’s dependency on volunteers and member contributions to remain solvent. “There are things we can do to tap into the existing base of people who frequent the club, have a connection here, and would hate to see it go.” says Booth. “People realize afterward—’Oh, I had no idea’—but by then it’s too late.”
Photos by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.