Barring the emergence of a new owner, the historic Quinsam Hotel will close its doors May 25, the We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) First Nation announced this week.
The iconic Campbellton landmark, known as the “Quinnie”, has been open almost continuously since it was built in 1917. The We Wai Kai have owned the business since 2007.
“It was decided by (band) council on March 23,” said Brian Kelly, Band Administrator. “It was a decision based on poor economics within the hospitality industry.”
Kelly said the band had hoped the local construction boom, led by the John Hart Power Generating Station Replacement Project and the Campbell River Hospital project, would result in an economic boost for the Quinsam, which includes a hotel, restaurant and pub.
“In the (hospitality) section, we haven’t noticed anything,” said Kelly.
Approximately 20 people are employed at the Quinnie, he said.
The Band has no plans to demolish the hotel or convert it to another purpose. Instead, it hopes to be able to sell or lease the property and focus on its economic development projects at Quinsam Crossing and on Quadra Island.
A package liquor store formerly housed in the hotel was relocated to Quinsam Crossing two years ago and continues to operate as a stand-alone business. The We Wai Kai has also recently expanded its Shell fuelling station at the crossing to include high-speed diesel pumps and added a second sani-dump station to benefit motor homes.
The Quinsam Hotel has had a storied existence, from before completion of its construction. Original builder Tom Laffin sold the hotel before it was even built when Prohibition was enacted and pre-empted his plans to sell alcohol. Ken Bergstrom bought the hotel and had to wait only until 1920 for prohibition to be lifted and business to boom.
With 22 rooms, the Quinsam was the dominant structure in the growing little community. In 1923, it was bought by Jim “The Bishop” English, a former bootlegger who used the profits from his illicit business to purchase the legitimate one. English remained owner or part-owner until his death in 1961. Partner Jack Ross took over, and the Quinsam has since had four more owners, a major expansion, and the addition of entertainment and the liquor store before the We Wai Kai took over.