A historic building in downtown Oshawa is back in business with its old name.
What used to be known as the Music Hall, located at 39 King St. E., has now been re-opened with new owners and its original name, Biltmore Theatre.
The building became available in May of 2020 after its former tenants moved out due to the struggles of keeping the business running during the pandemic.
Julius Kedvessy, who has been in love with the building for years, started negotiating with the owners when it became empty and bought it in September of 2020.
Kedvessy decided to change the name back to ‘Biltmore Theatre’ from ‘The Music Hall Nightclub and Concert Theatre’ and open doors to local music artists. Before owning this theatre, he owned and ran a venue called ‘Wasted Space’ just a few minutes away from Biltmore Theatre, which was running up until 2015.
Sadly, Kedvessy passed away fall of but his daughter, Diana Cerovich, continues to run his legacy.
“We’re really invested now. We want to make it work and want to be able to see his dream come to life and be able to show his dream and his legacy with downtown, with Oshawa, with literally everybody, because he was and had a huge impact on a lot of things” Cerovich said.
Since taking over her father’s role, Cerovich handles the day-to-day operations, including booking the bands that would be performing in the coming weeks and months.
Starting a company can be difficult especially at the beginning of a pandemic.
“So with any company, when you’re starting in the beginning, you don’t generally have a heck of a lot of revenue. So from where we are now, we are a lot better than we were in the beginning, but we are still building and we’re still making it so that this is going to be something that sticks around for a very long time to come,” Cerovich said.
Jeff Davis is the theatre’s director of communications. He said they were supposed to have a grand opening on April 7, 2021, which would have made it 81 years since the original Biltmore Theatre opened. That never happened since the provincial government announced a stay-at-home order and shut everything down.
“The pandemic has been difficult, it dragged our opening process much further than we had intended and made it difficult to create revenues but created (some) successful events. That solved what the Biltmore Theatre’s all about,” Davis said.
In May, they began streaming and recording events from the theatre with local bands.
In the summer, the Markham Jazz Festival streamed and recorded four performances from the theatre. The Sheepdogs also recorded a segment at the venue. It was played as part of Brampton’s Canada Day event.
The Biltmore Theatre was able to hold its first live event on July 24, 2021, with a performance called ‘Living Dead Girl: Live Exorcism’. Davis said getting artists together again is rewarding.
“It’s been a driving force throughout this pandemic with people listening to streaming events and whatnot. So for us to be able to not only give the musicians but the audiences, the opportunity to now get back together in a face-to-face situation is huge to us and we were very pleased to be able to do that.”
The theatre has event bookings that go far ahead as September 2022.
“It all depends on COVID,” Davis said, adding they hope to run shows seven days a week with full capacity.
“There’s nothing worse for a musician than to play to an empty room. So we’re trying to find ways to, even when we had reduced the capacities, give the room more of a feel and a look of being full to encourage them,” Davis said.
Cerovich recalls her father as “a long time supporter of the downtown area and the local art scene,” and hopes to continue what her father wanted to do.
“He was very determined and he was very self-made. To be able to continue this and to be able to see it grow, to be able to see the room filled and continue those things that he had dreamed of doing is very important to us,” Cerovich said.
Upcoming shows at the Biltmore include The Born Ruffians on March 24 and Carole Pope March 26.