AN ERA HAS ENDED – “BIRCHES” IN HOUSE CATERING IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE
The Latvian Canadian Cultural Center has humble beginnings from 1979 being created as a place for Latvian culture and society to thrive in Canada. While the world now bears no resemblance to anything the founding members of The Center could have ever imagined and we are no longer in as large a number or in as great a concentration as before, there has always been one certainty – The Center and its power of bringing Latvians together. As the home of a diverse group of cultural groups and organizations, The Center has played a part in some way or another in the lives of countless Latvians in not only Canada, but the world over.
The Center has faced its fair share of challenges over the years and it would be an understatement to say that it has always been easy. While The Center has continued to thrive throughout some of the most trying times, we are faced with a global event of unprecedented magnitude. As many of you already know, the world is fighting a global pandemic, the COVID-19 virus that has affected an innumerable number of people globally.
The Latvian Center has recently been forced to work around several key issues, that while individually minor, as a whole they have placed considerable strain on the operations of The Center. This effect has been most strongly felt in the catering division, The Birches.
The Birches was created as an in house solution to provide catering services for both internal and external events held at The Center. While The Center has been able to operate The Birches at a break-even level or slight loss for many years, there have been multiple changes that have put added strain on its operations. In recent years The Center has seen a sharp increase in paid staff replacing the normally high amount of volunteers that have been the backbone of The Center since its inception. This change has been particularly pronounced in the catering division, with many paid positions having taken over the roles that volunteers would have normally filled. With this, the growth in costs has outpaced the growth in revenues, and the catering division now operates at a loss. With the increase in paid staff and lack of revenue growth to offset cost increases, The Center now lays at a crossroads where it must choose between offering its catering services, and shutting down this aspect of our operations entirely for the preservation of the organization as a whole.
Moving further to a holistic evaluation of The Center’s operations does not paint a much different picture. In recent years, The Center has relied largely on considerable, one-time bequests and donations from members to cover operating losses. As of yet, we have not received any donations or funding of this sort to date. This has further been exacerbated by multiple factors largely outside of our control; LRT construction, and the recent flooding of the basement. Construction of the LRT has led to significant difficulty in attracting new business and hall rentals which provide a large source of revenue for The Center. This has made it difficult to generate higher margin revenue to offset high labour costs at the center. The flooding of the basement has further added to this problem in two ways: a loss of rental revenue, and additional costs required to renovate and repair damage caused by the flooding. When evaluated as a whole, the already considerable operating loss that The Center has been operating at has reached a point that is no longer manageable. The Center has taken several steps to mitigate this in recent years with changes in our operations, most notably having introduced the new position of general manager, improving the efficiency of the operations of The Center.
It is with great sadness that we are forced to even consider this sort of decision but if the situation does not improve quickly, we will be forced to act in a drastic way to preserve The Center. With the uncertain times that we are in currently that is made all the more severe by the forced closure of non-essential businesses due to COVID-19.
While we are currently facing difficulty, The Latvian Center has a future, but without the help and support of our community through volunteer efforts and financial support, along with dramatic restructuring of operations, the scenario laid out above is inevitable. We are able to work together to continue the future of the organization. Now is the time that we must all do our part to preserve The Center we all hold dear.
Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre Board