Penticton Café adjusting to keep the dream alive

Penticton’s world-famous Dream Café is looking to readjust its finances.

Pierre Couture turned the Dream Café owner to a co-op last year. It was announced on the weekend they would be shutting the doors temporarily due to financial constraints.

Pierre Couture turned the Dream Café owner to a co-op last year. It was announced on the weekend they would be shutting the doors temporarily due to financial constraints.

Penticton’s world-famous Dream Café is looking to readjust its finances as the co-op board that took over operations last year aims to keep the Dream alive.

Financial information was distributed to the 130 board members who invested in the co-op after former owners Pierre Couture and Debra Rice handed over ownership. Last week, co-op announced it was suspending operations Oct. 1 due to unanticipated cashflow problems.

(Related story: Dream Café closing its doors)

Paul Bouchard, a director on the Dream Café co-op board, joined the board in the summer, when financial operations were shifted from the board member in charge who was suffering from health issues.

“I learned that really good quality operational financial statements weren’t yet in place,” Bouchard said.

In the first meeting Bouchard attended in June a motion was made to change those running accounting and bookkeeping workload. However, the cashflow problems did not come to a head until recently.

“We learned of the crisis when the bank account dipped last Tuesday to zero. I immediately became aware this was going to end badly and I took steps to get a motion from the board. It was a hard sell because most people couldn’t believe it. Nobody could believe it,” Bouchard said.

A package of financial information was given to co-op members Oct. 4, outlining the situation.

“It’s an explainable situation. Not an excusable situation by any means,” Bouchard said.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding, 99 per cent, there’s a couple loose ends I’m dealing with here today. I’m proud we haven’t burned beyond — we could have burned ourselves to a burn up on re-entry like a spaceship if we carried on.”

The next step is the special general meeting on Oct. 30 for the membership of the co-op. Bouchard said he hopes to have some committee work done before that meeting and a focus for the board is coming up with a new business operating plan.

“Such that our revenues will not underperform compared to the cash commitments we’ve made and spending money. We’ve been spending faster than it came in and ran out of money. Can’t do that anymore, so a new business plan has to come forward.”

Including how the finances will be operated and who will be in charge.

Bouchard said benefit concerts are in the works to assist with the financial difficulties and there are still shares available for those looking to invest.

“It’s the simple process of not having enough working capital. No matter how many investors we’d have if it had continued to operate the way it turned out to have been operating, it would have been burning faster cash than it took in,” Bouchard said.

An operations model change is necessary, he said.

“It probably should have been recognized, rejigged and operational changes made some months ago. Not a lot, but certainly a couple, three months ago,” Bouchard said. “If there had been enough awareness this could have maybe started turning around and steering the boat another direction. That failed to occur.”

He noted the support from both the Penticton and musical communities has been heard.

“We hope to get this thing viable or else the Dream is lost. There’s too many people who want that not to happen. I have to believe that a new operating plan and some capable people that can deliver that operating plan will be gathered together here in short order, but that’s not the case as we speak,” Bouchard said. “That’s what I’ve got to focus on in the next while.”

Penticton musician Aidan Mayes has sold out the Dream Café 11 times either with the Offramp Jazz Sextet or with her musical counterpart Mandy Cole.

“I hope that they will be able to reopen, that’s for sure. I think it’s a really, really special place. I know you hear that from all the musicians who have played there, but it’s really, really quite something special,” Mayes said. “There’s not a lot of venues in B.C. or even in the world that create that kind of atmosphere of intimacy between the audience and the storytelling. It’s really about the music.”

She said she would be more than happy to participate in a benefit show for the Café in the future.

“I hope they can get things re-worked and get it back on its feet. It would be such a tragedy to see it close for good,” Mayes said.

A GoFundMe online fundraising campaign has been set up as well. As of press deadline on Oct. 6, the campaign had raised $1,050 from seven donors in three days. The GoFundMe can be found at www.gofundme.com/savethedreamcafe.