As you may know (if you live in Winnipeg) there are rumours that the venerable Windsor Hotel and blues bar will be torn down to create a parking lot -- a scenario that certainly seems plausible given the neglect of the current owners. A group has formed to save the Windsor, lead by local blues singer Kathy Kennedy. They have a Facebook group, and on-line petition, and were organizing a rally for Saturday afternoon.
Tearing down any occupied building for yet another parking lot would certainly be a blow to downtown, BUT ... there is good news! Kathy's latest update on Facebook states:
Sam Katz just called me and said that the city has no intentions of tearing down the Windsor or buying that property. So now we know this isn't true!Right. Just like how Sam called me personally and stated that he had no intentions of caving in to the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, back when they wanted to kick an apartment developer out of town.
Here's where I am conflicted: I have gone to the Windsor from time to time and enjoy having another choice to catch some live music downtown, though if it were to disappear my life would go on. Actually, I wasn't even aware that it had deteriorated from a respectable, if divey, "Nothing but the blues" blues bar, to a "Nothing but the booze" strip joint that plays top 40 music, as some people say. Also, out of concern for downtown Winnipeg, I would hate to see a building torn down to expand a parking lot, and the loss of urban vitality that comes from losing a live music venue. Problem is, if the place really has turned into nothing more than a drunken bum factory, that's not much better than a parking lot.
The Save the Windsor group is attempting to accomplish it's goal by lobbying to have the hotel registered as a heritage building. Certainly there is a lot of history associated with the building, like that whole Charlie Chaplin thing, but is it really a heritage building? It is no architectural gem, nor is it in the middle of a cluster of period buildings that needs to be preserved. It is an ordinary, run-down building in an uninteresting part of downtown. However, it could be so much more. With the right owners in place I could envision that building being renovated into a boutique hotel with a clean and welcoming blues club attached to it. It is not the Windsor as it currently exists that I would regret losing; it is the potential of what the Windsor could be.
I was in the downtown area early Saturday afternoon, about 10 minutes before the official start time of the rally, and decided to stop by to check things out. No gathering had materialized yet. I saw three people wander out of the hotel door, one of whom obviously shops for his cigarettes on the sidewalk. There were two other people standing outside of the blues club doors who I thought might be there for the rally, but as it turns out they were just smoking a joint. On the inside it was business as usual with about 12 or so people sitting around drinking beer and giving me the eye as I walked around in my dressy wool coat. The place looks like a dive, it smells like a dive, and I did not feel particularly at home, although I never mind stopping for a beer in even the seediest of joints. But having a look around reminded me that my fond memories of drinking beer and watching bands at the Windsor have more to do with the bands that were playing and the friends that I was with, than with the building itself.