Le Voyeur–The Next Generation

Le Voyeur has been a mainstay of Olympia’s scene since 1997.

“Le Voyeur offers vegan-friendly food, drunk-friendly drinks, and punk-friendly entertainment. It’s also a good spot for some Olympian people-watching, as college kids and townies mix with K Records royalty and traveling crusties. Check the bathroom graffiti for some of the best radical political dialogue in town.”- The Stranger

Tonight, the club moves to its next generation of ownership as a worker cooperative and it seems a fitting way to kick off National Co-op Month.

Right now, in this country, we are living through the greatest generational transfer of wealth that has ever taken place as Baby Boomers retire. For many small businesses (like Le Voyeur), that transfer may never take place. These businesses will simply cease to exist and the equity and jobs will simply disappear in the sands of time. It is estimated that only 20% of existing small businesses will transfer to a new generation of ownership.

Almost more important than the jobs and equity, the community also loses a sense of place. Clubs such as Le Voyeur are more than entertainment venues, they help create the culture of the community. It doesn’t just include entertainment venues either. Just a block away from Le Voyeur is Dumpster Values, another mainstay of the downtown for over 20 years. This gently used and greatly cared for second-use clothing boutique also creates a sense of place that makes Olympia, Olympia.

This conversion project happened incredibly quickly: it took less than 5 months. Part of the fleet conversion involved access to capital, of course, but also a community that has embraced worker ownership. In 2014, the year that I arrived in this capital city, there were two worker co-ops and two worker managed businesses. Today, there are 10 worker-owned co-ops* and 2 worker controlled companies. For a community of just 52,000 people that is one worker-owned and/or controlled business for every 4,300 people (as a humble brag, one of the organizers of Le Voyeur took my summer course at The Evergreen State College).

Other than having a former student involved, I mainly watched this from afar (although my office is right across the street). The value of a co-op ecosystem such as Olympia has created, arises in the experience and mutual support within the community.

I look forward to Le Voyeur’s continued success and the other conversion projects under way in Olympia. It is an exciting time for worker ownership here and throughout the country.

*Not all are legally incorporated as co-ops, but all adhere to the co-op identity and the social definition of cooperation.

Note: I’ll be posting each day during Co-op Month about various projects in conjunction with my agency’s (NWCDC) posts.

 

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the late, great Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle for Sociocracy for All. He has taught on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College and Presidio Graduate School.
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1 Response to Le Voyeur–The Next Generation

  1. Pingback: The Flaming Eggplant: Past and Present | The Workers' Paradise

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