Editor’s note – This story comes to us by way of local professional photographer Averil Hall, who through her lenses, sees stories needing to be told. A long time contributor to the News-Optimist, Hall facilitated the publication of this story.
Although current public health restrictions would allow Glennda Ilett to open the doors to she-NANIGANS, she has decided it is simply not feasible. In fact, she said, she is losing less money by staying closed than she would by opening.
Staying closed does not mean money is not going out the door but she-NANIGANS only opened Feb. 13, 2020, a month before the first lockdown. With no income in 2019, the business does not qualify for any government aid.
she-NANIGANS is described on its Facebook page as a “live entertainment boutique venue featuring Saskatchewan sourced spirits, craft beer, fresh farm to table foods, sustainability, welcoming hospitality.” It is located in the former Ukrainian hall at 792 – 108th Street in North Battleford.
Ilett bought the building in December, 2019 and immediately started on the extensive renovations needed to bring everything up to code. She said contractors were hauling out their equipment at the same time staff was setting up for their first event last February.
All three events held before the March, 2020, lockdown had “tremendous community support,” said Ilett, with a sellout in February.
The food is chosen and created by chef Kelly Waters to complement each specific live event. For example, old-time music might call for a menu selection of stews and roasts. What doesn’t change is the commitment to local sustainability, with all beverages and foods purchased locally as much as possible, and always freshly prepared.
As is common with many new businesses, Ilett has not yet taken a salary. Any profit over and above expenses is “put into furthering the building and warm ambiance esthetics.
What is unusual, however is that Ilett is not the only one not taking a salary of any kind. Right from the start, Waters has volunteered her time and expertise in a desire to see this unique venue succeed.
When she-NANIGANS re-opened its doors after the lockdown, Aug. 14, 2020, for a live concert with Jeffery Straker – his first since the pandemic began – menu items included walleye fish cakes, vegetable fritters and clay-oven baked Petrofka Orchard Doukhobor bread. For that event, and others continuing into the fall, all covid-19 protocols were followed, including physical distancing.
Throughout the late summer and fall months, she-NANIGANS remained open. Although, technically, the official capacity is 130, the requirements to have 10 feet between tables and each table limited to four persons meant the most who could attend an event was 24. Despite that, she-NANIGANS continued to operate.
However, the tighter public health rules brought in by the provincial government in mid-December made it impossible to keep going.
With revenue coming solely from food and beverage sales, the prohibition on food and beverage service during performances and the requirement for both customers and performers to be masked, forced Ilett to lay off employees and close the doors. No opportunity to generate even a little income from the small crowds meant no chance to even limit losses, let alone break even or turn a profit.
Prior to Christmas, she-NANIGANS hosted a Christmas bazaar and a Paint Nite. Despite the limited attendance necessitated by distancing requirements, Ilett was thrilled the Paint Nite broke even. No revenue was realized from the bazaar as, despite her personal circumstances, Ilett wanted to support the community by offering local artisans the opportunity to sell their crafts.
Ilett said she-NANIGANS is a “passion project” for both herself and Waters, so they are both determined to re-open as soon as regulations permit. In the meantime, she is thankful for her property management business which continues to pay the bills, not only for her household, but to keep the dream alive – the dream of a unique entertainment venue featuring fresh, locally sourced food and drinks and varied live entertainment.