Calgary after Zak Pashak

Zak Pashak is a staple in Calgary’s art scene. That’s why when news breaks that he has sold his bar, Broken City, and is stepping down from his position as festival director for the hugely popular Sled Island Music Festival, it’s bound to worry Calgarians. But don’t fret your pretty little head too much, with the bad news comes some good.

The good news is that Pashak has not cut his ties with Sled Island. The festival has simply hired a full-time festival director and Pashak will continue to be involved. He’s currently busy booking bands and getting everything up and running after securing necessary funding from the government.

“The provincial government has been really helpful,” says Pashak. “It’s been an uphill battle, there’s definitely been years of work put into it, but you know, you just keep asking and eventually things pan out. Minister [of Culture and Community Spirit Lindsay ]Blackett has been really good for the arts in Alberta and definitely really wants to encourage and support local initiatives.”

Pashak is still on the Sled Island board of directors too. He’s hired a new festival director, Lindsay Shedden, to manage the day-to-day operations of the festival and give a helping hand. Shedden has worked on tour with bands like the Arcade Fire and the Mars Volta, and there’s no doubt that another organizer will only bolster the yearly festival.

Now here comes the bad news for Calgarians. Pashak has sold Broken City and is currently managing another venue he owns, The Biltmore, in Vancouver.

“I think the new owners will keep it in the same spirit and it just makes more sense for me,” says Pashak. “It’s hard to run a bar like that when you’re not there, and over the last few years Broken City has struggled a little bit. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of our old clientele have moved on and it’s just not as busy. We had a really tough summer — EnMax shut down the road in front of the bar, which was horrible for our sales, so that was kind of tough to bounce back from. And for me, I’m just not in Calgary, and I’m not there to put the care into that needs to be put into it. It’s been around for eight-and-a-half years.”

So, it’s not all bad. With any luck, Broken City won’t lose the quirky identity Pashak worked so hard to cultivate.

Though Pashak is working at the aforementioned Biltmore, that won’t last forever. The bar owner and ex-festival director is looking towards his future.

“I may move,” he says. “It might not be Vancouver. I might move to Detroit. I really like it, it’s a really interesting city. We’ll see — I’m not a hundred per cent sure, but I’ve been taken some trips down to Detroit lately and it’s kind of a cool place. There’s a lot of development that needs to be done.”

It makes sense for the civic-minded Pashak. He recently ran for alderman in Calgary’s Ward 8, but ultimately lost despite garnering over 9,000 votes.

“It was really inspiring actually. Naheed Nenshi did a really great job, and I got over 9,000 people to vote for me, which was really flattering,” he says. “It’s nice to know that that many people are paying attention and were supportive of me and my campaign.”

So, while it’s not exactly clear what’s next for Pashak, Calgarians can rest easy. Sled Island has received the green light and Broken City is still jugging along thought if he moves, his presence wil surely be missed.

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