A farewell to the Good Will

Winnipeg says goodbye to beloved live-music venue

Winnipeg is bidding a bittersweet farewell to one of its most beloved venues, the Good Will Social Club.

Keeley Braunstein-Black

Nearly a decade after nine guys decided to open the Good Will Social Club, the beloved venue will take a final bow on Feb. 1.

A hub for local music, dance parties, karaoke gatherings and trivia nights, former owner Tyler Sneesby describes the venue as the realization of a dream.

“We had a clear vision of what we wanted the Good Will to be, which was a live venue, a community hub during the day that transitions to a music venue in the evenings,” he says.

Despite stepping down as general manager in 2020, Sneesby is still involved in running the venue’s popular Nothing Butt dance parties alongside Tim Hoover. The duo is known as DJ Hunnicutt and DJ Co-op. With the Good Will’s imminent closure, Sneesby says it’s hard to imagine hosting the venue’s staple events elsewhere.

“We come up with ideas for different events, and the Good Will is really the only place where we would like to do them,” he says. “It is a testament to the vibe of that place, since certain things only work at the Good Will.”

Local band FIINN (formerly known as FINN) shares this sentiment about the venue. They were among the first bands to play at the Good Will when it opened in 2014 and continuously performed there more than any other location in the city. Bass player John Baron says the group and its fanbase have always felt “at home” at the venue.

“We are just so sad that it is shutting down, because it is such a community spot and a hub for the Winnipeg music scene,” he says.

Singer-songwriter Hera Nalam is a longtime attendee and performer at the venue. She remembers visiting the Good Will for the first time in 2015, after recently moving to Canada and starting university.

“I got to witness a live band for the first time, and it was my first introduction to the Winnipeg local music scene,” she says. “It was such a cool moment for me to experience Winnipeg culture, and I fell in love with it.”

Nalam attributes the Good Will’s success to its staff and tech crew. She became close with them after beginning to host the venue’s karaoke nights in the spring of 2023.

“I don’t know what the Good Will does, but they take care of their artists so well,” she says.

The decision to shut down the space wasn’t an easy one, according to venue co-owner Anthony Kowalczyk, and was influenced by economic challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the music scene and the demands of running the venue.

Although the future of 625 Portage Ave. remains uncertain, Kowalczyk cherishes the “touching commentary” from venue attendees and music acts left on the bar’s closing announcement on its social-media accounts. He also hangs onto the hope that the venue might reemerge under new ownership.

“As time goes on, it would be nice if someone would take over it. I think it is a great loss to the community, and it is one of those things that we just don’t want to see disappear,” he says.

The Good Will Social Club has several shows lined up until its closing day on Feb. 1. For tickets and events information, visit thegoodwill.ca.

Published in Volume 78, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 10, 2024)

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