Infamous Sherbrook Inn shutters bar, vendor
The Sherbrook Inn, a controversial West Broadway neighbourhood fixture for nearly 60 years, has closed its bar and beer vendor.
While the living quarters above the bar remain operational, people stopping by for a drink or to play the slots were met with a locked door and a notice from management saying it would be closed until further notice.
Longtime night manager Dale Kirton said he’s not sure whether it’s closed forever, but he was just laid off permanently after working there on and off since the late 1980s.
He said the owner hadn’t sold the building yet, but they were “closing the place up” and he’s set to retire and collect a pension.
“The word was ‘indefinite,”’ Kirton said with a laugh outside the hotel Friday.
The Sherbrook Inn — formerly the Westminster Hotel — changed hands several times until it was purchased by Bill Bailly and his family in the 1980s. His son, Terry Bailly, is the current owner.
Bailly declined to comment Friday.
“We’re a private organization, we’re allowed to stay private,’” he said before ending a brief call with the Free Press.
Staff at the adjoining businesses, Deno’s Pawn Sales and recently-opened Fiddler’s Green Cannabis, said they had no information on how the situation might affect them.
When The Tallest Poppy, a separately owned restaurant located in the building, closed in May, Bailly told the Free Press the Sherbrook Inn would remain open.
The Inn has found itself at the centre of controversy over the decades. In 1995, then-mayor Glen Murray called a beer vendor with an attached pawn shop a “stupid combination” after a neighbourhood survey cited the hotel as one of the area’s most unsafe places.
“I don’t care — you can blame our vendor for all the violence in the neighbourhood, but that isn’t how it works”–Night manager Dale Kirton
Bailly responded, calling it an unfair characterization, and said the business was dealing with the same safety hazards as everyone else.
In 1987, Free Press ombudsman Barry Mullin apologized to Bailly after several news stories written about a fatal stabbing in West Broadway linked the hotel to the death, although police never confirmed a connection.
More recently, a spike in violent incidents on nearby Furby Street — including a Jan. 11 shooting a short distance from the hotel, and a fatal altercation Jan . 5 in an apartment complex.
In December, the body of a truck driver from B.C. was found in a nearby apartment block after his vehicle was discovered in the Sherbrook Inn parking lot. Days later, an armed man was shot and killed by police after taking three adults and a child hostage in the same building. Homicide detectives believe the two incidents were related.
Kirton said the Sherbrook Inn’s unsafe reputation was unfair, because the neighbourhood became inundated with crime over the years.
“We did our best to run a tight ship, kept the violence low over the years. It could have been worse,” he said. “But we cleared it up of the worst people, kept barring them from the hotel.”
The establishment was a gathering spot for people living in the area, and losing it will mean losing a central part of the community’s culture, he said.
“A vendor is a big deal in the community, for every community,” he said.
“I don’t care — you can blame our vendor for all the violence in the neighbourhood, but that isn’t how it works.”
Not everyone agrees. A Furby street homeowner and landlord who lives several doors away from the hotel said closing the doors would have “a huge, positive effect on the community,” even if it’s just temporary.
“The bar is continually a problem, and multiple people have tried to purchase it. I know I’d be interested… if it came up for sale,” she said.
She said she’s heard local community development organizations have tried to buy it in the past.
“I think things should be going upscale. The neighbourhood’s definitely changed. It’s not a pawn shop they need, they need more gathering places here for the people. I think that would do well,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified.
But she stopped short of blaming the Sherbrook Inn for all of the neighbourhood’s troubles.
“West Broadway has more incidents of people overdosing than any other neighbourhood, and that’s not coming from the bar,” she said. “That’s coming from the meth dealers who are in the neighbourhood; the police need to do something about that.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed in (Winnipeg Police Chief) Danny Smyth, for his lack of caring and patrolling for the people in the lesser communities. I feel like he’s really slighted (us).”
Rosie Howard, who carried two large bags of empty cans she was hoping to exchange for some change, was disappointed to find the door locked after hearing rumours.
Howard said contrary to its reputation, it was a safe — and inexpensive — watering hole for people living in the area.
“For our ’hood, it’s the Maryland (Beer Store) or Balmoral (Motor Hotel). And I know a lot of people don’t want to go there,” she said.
“If they have their (choice) they come here… because if you go to (the) Maryland, Balmoral — you know what that’s like down there. That’s the central ’hood. It’s meth city.”