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Lido celebrates 15

“It means something to everybody and they all take a little ownership in it.”

It’s a happy 15th birthday today for Brian Kirschner and the Lido Theatre in Fort St. John, no foolin’.

You name it, Brian's hosted it: rock shows and hair shows, romantic dinners for two, AGMs and acrobats, political debates, weddings and funerals, crib tourneys and comedians, bouncy castles, and even live horses and a couple Harleys too.

Tonight, he hosts two of the finest bands in Fort St. John for a showdown and anniversary celebration: Last Horse Standing and Rose Prairie Romance.

“It was April Fool’s Day,” Kirschner says of purchasing the city's historic theatre on April 1, 2007. “I joke about it lots, about what a fool to buy the place, but it’s been good.”

And how could it not?

Throw a stone in this town and you’ll find someone with fond memories growing up and standing in line to see all manner of old talkies at the Lido, first built and opened in 1957 as Fort St. John's newest theatre - the "finest in the north."

“There is a little single screen theatre in every town, in every small community. It was always built on the ball diamonds, the movie theatre, the curling rink, the hockey rink, and there’s your entertainment in a small town,” says Kirschner, not lost to the fact that similar venues have been torn down in communities across the country, including in Dawson Creek.

“It means something to everybody and they all take a little ownership in it. They want to see it do well, they want to see it thrive, and they want to see it stay open.”

Kirschner’s vision for the venue came after seeing Glass Tiger and Honeymoon Suite at the North Peace Cultural Centre, and the idea that the city needed a cool mix between the soft-seats of the cultural centre, and a bar. Before he bought the Lido, it had sat vacant for five years after Landmark moved their theatre to the mall. 

“Here’s this box sitting in the corner, one of my best friends is trying to get rid of it, nobody wants it. I thought I should go have a look,” Brian recalls. “I remember going up into the wing, climbing up the stairs, and I could just see it all there: Just expand the stage a little bit, get the lights in here, you get your sound deck there. It all just clicked into place. This could work.”

Brian has slowly turned the former 320-seat theatre into his own unique cabaret of the north, plunking hundreds of thousands in renos over the years, always a new scheme being dreamed. It was finally in 2012 he was able to turn his first profit, and the empty bottle of champagne marking the occasion still sits in his office.

“I just kept sinking it in. I’d go take a holiday and I’d come back and go, You know what I need to do now… I need to rip out all the sides and build booths, yeah, tiered booths,” Kirschner says. “I’d come back, throw in a whole bunch of money and saw and cut, and bang and build.”

“People don’t want to sit in theatre-style seats,” he continues. “There’s not a lot of events with dancing. People dance whether it’s tight or whether it’s big, but it’s always good to have a small floor that’s full than a big floor that’s empty.”

He's still banging and building away these days, with a new, 60-person rooftop patio in its final licensing stages. The Luna Lounge will be the first of its kind in the city.

“There’s a lot of talk that the Lido is just me but it’s not,” he says. “I get the kudos but I always call it the Lido family. There’s lots of people who have come and gone through here, no different than when the Lido was the Lido back in the day.”

Honeymoon Suite has played the Lido stage since its reopening, though Glass Tiger still needs to visit. 

But Brian's ultimate Lido bucket list act?

Hosting Boz Scaggs, the American blues-rock singer behind the hit 1977 tune Lido Shuffle, which has opened almost every show from the get-go. “I remember hearing it and I thought well that’s kind of cool. There’s certain points of the song, ‘He’s for the money, he’s for the show’, some of those things resonated, and it says the word Lido in it, so it must be perfect. So I took it and ran with it.

"It’s a great song,” he says. "It would please me for him to come here and actually sing that song on the stage.”

Last Horse Standing and Rose Prairie Romance perform tonight starting at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7.

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