A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the Nanaimo Bar pub. (News Bulletin file photo)

Crowdfunding campaign hopes to raise $50k to aid struggling Nanaimo Bar pub

Owner said rising cost of insurance due to COVID-19 puts business at risk of closing down

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support a Nanaimo bar and music venue struggling due to COVID-19.

Not long after the Nanaimo Bar pub celebrated its fourth anniversary, COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, forcing owner and operator Sonia Komen to temporarily shut down her business. Since reopening, she said it feels like she’s “starting from zero.”

The biggest challenge she’s facing is paying her annual insurance bill, which she said quadrupled from $12,500 to $50,000 due to the pandemic.

“I might have to close doors because I can’t afford that,” Komen said.

Making matters worse, Komen said she’s had difficulty accessing the federal wage subsidy and in a Facebook post she said new regulations require her to close at 11 p.m., which is particularly costly as 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. is “prime time” for her.

When Nanaimo musicians David Bitonti and Carl Schleppe heard that the Nanaimo Bar was at risk of closing down, they sprung into action. Last week they set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help keep the bar in business.

“I have a problem asking for help and I refuse to do it so it’s nice somebody else is doing it for me,” Komen said.

Bitonti said he and Schleppe perform at the Nanaimo Bar often and it’s venues like that that “truly make a community happen.”

“Nanaimo’s kind of a bigger city but it’s definitely got a small-town feel when it comes to the music community and so I just think it’s hugely valuable to have venues like hers that care about live music,” Bitonti said.

At first the campaign sought to raise $5,000, which Komen said could help get her through the month. In only four days that goal was met and exceeded by nearly $2,000. The fundraiser’s revised target is now $50,000, enough to cover the yearly cost of insurance.

Bitonti said he was “very pleased and excited and completely overwhelmed” to see the initial fundraiser meet its goal in less than a week. Komen said it was humbling to see the community response and she’s “in shock still.”

“I feel honoured that people are wanting to support the bar so much. The support is unreal…” she said. “I love this community. That’s one thing about Nanaimo is when somebody is in need of help, this community really pulls through every time.”

To support the GoFundMe campaign, click here.


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