Slumland Theatre closing at end of June

A downtown music venue geared to teens will be closing its doors.

A downtown music venue geared to teens will be closing its doors.

Slumland Theatre owner Desiree Marshall said her lease will not be renewed at its space at 4732 Ross St. and she will have to close at the end of June.

Marshall, who has sunk about $30,000 of her own money into the venue that showcased live bands and included a small retail store called Slumwear, was emotional as she talked about the latest turn.

“We just can’t afford to move somewhere else,” she said.

“There’s just so many aspects that made the place we are (a venue) where we were able to do it,” she said, adding the space required few changes to turn it into Slumland and the rent was favourable.

The venue was licensed to sell alcohol but that was a small part of the business. Most of the clientele were younger teens just looking for a place to catch bands they couldn’t see in a club where patrons must be the drinking age.

But Marshall said while she tried to work with neighbours, some just saw Slumland’s patrons inaccurately as a “bunch of partying, drunk kids” and couldn’t be convinced otherwise.

When Slumland, which opened last July, closes its doors there will be no place for teens to go to see the kinds of bands that the club showcases, she said.

Patrons, and even their parents, have sent her dozens of letters of support for Slumland, which has held a number of charity fundraisers over the past year supporting Ronald McDonald House, among others.

Landlord Mark Woolley, who owned Milestone Music in the same building for 20 years before closing a number of years ago and moving to B.C., is not unsympathetic.

“We’re a big supporter of music. Having wonderful opportunities for people to experience music is something we have been behind for a very long time.”

But Slumland was creating problems for other tenants, he said.

“I’m real sad about it. I wish it could have worked out, but I have to make a decision on what’s good for everybody.”

Jackie Boyer, who owns Victoria Lane Brides in the same building, said while the premise of providing a place for young people to listen to live music is good, the location was bad.

The rear entrance meant patrons came and went through a poorly lit, secluded area at night.

Since the business started, a door and window have been broken in her business, she said. Noise was also an occasional problem, as well as annoyances like having to come down to check her store when Slumland patrons accidentally tripped her security system.

Trying to run a venue that mixes drinking age patrons with younger teens has been tried, and failed before, in Red Deer, she said.

Sarah-Layne Nossack had been collecting names on a petition and gathering letters of support in hopes of saving Slumland.

“I know for me, I’m a 16-year-old girl and I love supporting the local music scene and I love being a part of it.

“And it’s really hard to do because there are all these venues in Red Deer and this is the only one I can go to. I really appreciate that it’s all ages,” said Nossack, who volunteers at Slumland.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com