After 56 years, last call at Tally Ho

After 56 years, the lights will go dark for good at the Tally Ho at the end of February.

With plans to demolish and redevelop the entire 2.5-acre site, the ownership group behind the hotel, pub and cafe has decided it’s last call for a pint, a final game on the big screen and a blast of live music.

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“The decision was made that over the next three or four weeks we will announce a bunch of celebration events,” said co-owner Wayne Hopkins.

“The hotel has been around for 56 years of operation in the city and it has a lot of meaning to people, so there will be a lot of final nights — the last Super Bowl, a final UFC event, a final blues night — it will be more celebration than sadness.”

The city has already bid farewell to the Tally Ho’s hotel. The ownership group closed that department last fall. By the end of February both the Tally Ho Sports Bar & Grill and the Hideaway Cafe will follow suit.

“It has been a difficult decision to make, but when you have turned the page you have something new and invigorating to [look forward to],” said Hopkins.

“The decision has been made to now start focusing on the redevelopment component of the site.”

Hopkins and his partners bought the Tally Ho in 2011 out of receivership for $4.2 million. It had previously been owned by John Asfar as part of his Traveller’s Inn chain.

The new group brought the Tally Ho name back (Asfar had called it the Vacation Inn) and put about $1 million into the property over the last five years to upgrade the exterior and completely remodel the sports bar and cafe.

Since the hotel closed, the ownership group has been weighing the cost of further improvements over development options and trying to determine the best use of the property.

“It soon narrowed down to the best use of the property included redevelopment,” he said. “The building is old, the bones are old.”

Hopkins said they do not yet have a vision for what will replace the hotel, but he suspects it is likely to be a mixed-use development with components of retail, commercial and residential.

“We expect it will be a few months before we are at the stage to make a [development] application,” he said.

What they do know is the entire structure will eventually be demolished.

“The building is 56 years old, and due to the manner of construction and the age it’s really at the end of its life, it would be hard to repurpose,” he said. “It’s better to clean slate the property and not have the existing building limit what the possibilities are.”

They do not expect the building will be razed until next year, and the company said it will maintain the exterior of the building until then.

Hopkins said they decided to close in February in order for the 30 staff who will be affected by the closure to more easily find work around the city as it ramps up for the busy summer season.

According to the Tally Ho archives, the hotel was originally built by Archie McDonald and opened in 1961 with 50 rooms, a beer parlour, a cocktail lounge and a restaurant. Over the next five decades it would house beer halls — complete with his and her entrances— off-track betting, comedy shows, exotic dancers and developed a reputation as an excellent live music venue.

The Tally Ho is in prime renovation space these days as it is next door to Metro Lexus Toyota‘s sparkling new building at the corner of Douglas and Finlayson, and just down the street from a major project to revitalize Mayfair Shopping Centre.

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