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Regina Legion, cultural clubs struggling to stay afloat – Regina

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They’re often the last bastion of support for those who served in the armed forces, but now the Royal Canadian Legion finds itself in need of help.

“We’re in a position where we can’t pay our bills simply because we don’t have the facilities in our bar or our café to pay our operating costs,” Ron Hitchcock, the curator of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 001 museum said.

“We’re dipping into our savings to pay those and it won’t be long until we’re closing our doors,” he continued.

Those costs are in the neighbourhood of $15,000 per year and including a generous rent of just $10 a year.

“We started this GoFundMe page, we didn’t know whether it would work and we were actually embarrassed to ask for money because that’s just the way it will work. So this [money] will help, but otherwise it’s simple mathematics,” Hitchcock said.

So far the plea has raised nearly $5000, but it’s a band-aid solution that masks the real problem: declining membership.

“Years ago there was 1000s of WWII veterans, Korean veterans and WWI veterans, but they’re all gone now,” Hitchcock said.

The Legion has just 300 members and the majority aren’t getting younger.

“Gradually, we’re getting some young veterans that are willing to stand up and speak…that will help us grow,” Hitchcock said.

The Legion isn’t the only club in the city struggling financially. The Austrian Club was forced to close its doors earlier this month, and the German Club recently asked for the public’s support in order to afford a new furnace.

“It’s tough, it’s saddening. I feel for them, and we feel very fortunate that we still have even our older generation,” Anna Carteri, the general manager of the Canadian Italian Club said.

The Canadian Italian Club, along with the Serbian Club are some of the few still thriving; something they managed to do by opening their doors to everyone.

“You can’t always think of your own. You’ve got to open up and we did open up.” Rod Milic, manager of the Serb Club said.

Both clubs are open to Canadians and have a number of Canadian members.

Milic says of their 2000 members 70 per cent are under 50 years old and most aren’t Serbian – but they appreciate the culture.

“We don’t push ourself to them, but throughout the day and throughout the months they get to know us and we bring them up to date what Serbia’s all about,” Milic continued.

The Canadian Italian Club recently began allowing non-Italians to dance in their traditional dance groups, and already has amassed a small collection of Canadian dancers.

“Because of the generations, we didn’t really have enough of the younger kids, so we opened it up to non-Italians,” Carteri said.

The solution isn’t ideal, but it has kept the two clubs afloat, and could be a model for other cultural clubs in the city.

For the Legion they’re hedging their bets on the next generation of vets, and hoping support for the country’s service-people will keep them afloat.

“Veterans need our help every day, every month of the year. We need funds to keep this place going all year long,” Hitchcock said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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