The space formerly known as the Carlton Club in Esquimalt is up for lease — but only to the right tenant.
Victoria-based GMC Projects bought the property in the spring of 2021, as they are seeking to develop 900 Carlton Terrace and 900 Esquimalt Road into an apartment and condo complex that could provide 272 homes.
The Carlton Club was many things over the years, a pillar of the community, a headache for neighbours and a fun place to spend a Friday night — the most recent iteration being a short lived attempt at revival as a wrestling and music venue.
The Carlton Club Cabaret, which occupied 900 Carlton Terrace at the time of GMC’s acquisition, was a hub for karaoke, burlesque, DJs and dancing for ages in Victoria, but it couldn’t survive the struggle it endured through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They hadn’t been operational as a result of restrictions,” said Jordan Milne, President and CEO of GMC Projects. “When the restrictions loosened, my memory is around fall of 2021, they tried reopening within the confines of whatever was allowed at that point in time.”
“Unfortunately it wasn’t successful, so they ended up closing down before the end of 2021.”
Shortly after the cabaret closed, the space was snapped up by Damon Roth, who owns 42ish Media, and rebranded the space to the Carlton Club Performing Arts Hub.
Then Roth opened the space to a local wrestling organization as a practice area, and also allowed for the DIY punk music scene in Victoria to rent the club as a cheap venue.
According to Milne, 42ish Media’s Carlton Performing Arts Hub proved to be a bad tenant time and time again for GMC Projects, despite the fact that they filled a hole in the music and wrestling communities, garnering them some goodwill with patrons of theirs.
They ended up breaking their lease by not paying rent for five months and tried to blame the structural integrity of the building as the reason the Carlton came to a close. In reality, Milne said that 42ish Media was evicted.
“They said that there were structural issues in regards to the building,” Milne told Victoria Buzz. “We take any such allegation extremely seriously, so we immediately had the space inspected who verified there was no such structural concern.”
“What they had done is they had taken a photograph. There was a shipping container in the parking lot for one of the restaurants. Because the parking lot is sloped for drainage, they had taken a picture making it look as though the shipping container was flush, but the building was crooked.”
Roth posted a video on the Carlton’s Facebook page in which he points out a number of cracked cinder blocks in the building’s covered walkway leading to the entry, sometimes called a breezeway. In the video he claimed the safety of his patrons was the reason for closing but Milne told Victoria Buzz it was a last ditch effort to get out of his lease.
Milne says this move on 42ish Media’s part was a ploy to divert the discussions they were having with GMC about them breaking the lease agreement by not paying for their tenancy.
“Frankly, they hadn’t paid their rent in five months so, they were not good neighbours, they were not operating within the confines of the lease and they were not paying their rent,” Milne explained.
42ish Media retaliated by selling off all the Carlton’s lighting, speakers and anything that wasn’t screwed down, all of which were not theirs to sell, according to Milne.
As a result of the tumultuous parting of ways, GMC Projects have filed a claim against Roth in court, which is an ongoing matter.
Victoria Buzz reached out to Roth and 42ish Media for comment, but received no reply.
Currently, the space has been put back up for lease and GMC Projects is looking for the right, community-minded tenant to take up the space.
“We’ve had a number of different groups that have expressed interest,” Milne said. “We haven’t found anyone who is the right fit yet.”
“We want to make sure that whatever goes in doesn’t create another burden on us as the last tenant did as it relates to how they operate.”
Milne added that his company is open to the idea of allowing another music venue business to occupy the space, but he doubts that anyone would want to after 42ish Media took and sold all the assets that would help a music venue flourish in the Carlton.
The space will be available for around a year and a half, as GMC Projects moves along with the process of developing the property. Milne can’t say for sure but if everything goes according to plan with getting approval from Esquimalt’s council, he is hoping to demolish the Carlton in late 2024 and get started on building the 272 new homes soon after.
The development doesn’t have a name yet, as it is still in its early phases, but steps have been taken to get the ball rolling on the project that will breathe new life into Esquimalt’s West Bay and add nearly 300 homes to the community.
So far, GMC Projects has met with both commercial tenants and residential tenants of the existing properties at 900 Carlton Terrace and 900 Esquimalt Road. They have also met with several neighbours in both an in-person and virtual setting to explain their vision and to hear what feedback they had.
A questionnaire was also given to neighbours of the properties in question, which Milne said included many who were excited for the project to go forward while several were opposed to the very idea of it.
Next steps for the developer will be submitting a Development Permit and Development with Variance Permit for both properties to the Township of Esquimalt. After that, the development will go before council.
“It’ll go through a municipal process whereby will ultimately come before council and I’m not sure when that will be,” Milne explained.
“Our hope would be given the housing crisis that we’re in and our goal of working expeditiously to create both new rental and for sale housing with an affordability component is to do that before the end of the year, but it may be next year by the time we are able to have this in front of council for consideration.”
“It will depend on how the municipal process goes,” he added.
More information about the new development at 900 Carlton Terrace and 900 Esquimalt Road
can be found online.