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Sooke News Mirror
January 26, 2005

In the News


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"Port Renfrew Hotel site makes progress"

by Jennifer Smith

The end of the road built a new beginning this fall.

Now well into their fifth month of construction, the Port Renfrew Hotel makeover is well underway, with a series of luxury cabins reshaping the small town's waterfront- and the bookings are flowing.

"We've had a tremendous amount of interest from England," said Port Renfrew Hotel assistant manager Mike Conlin.

A Port Renfrew resident, Conlin has been on site throughout the construction process, watching as the infamous hotel- known as the local hangout- transforms into a world-class destination.

strange geophysical tidal pools
Botanical Beach
Tidal Pools

"Charter fishing, ecotourism- that's the target," said Conlin, adding the hotel's marketing should generate it's own clientele, not draw from local businesses.

"We've got a pretty impressive pay roll going back into the local economy," he said.

Asked if the projected May deadline will see operations running smoothly, Conlin said he expects it can be done, stating simply: "we're pushing for it.

"It's like construction. It changes from moment to moment," he added.

But if the structures themselves are testament to the project's success, plans have developed nicely. By this spring the area will hold a fourplex with studio accommodation, new restaurant and bar, duplex cabins and one stand-alone luxury suite.

The three duplex buildings have their log-style siding- structural beams from the Youbou Mill in Cowichan Lake- while inside the beginnings of rooms take shape. Each unit is being outfitted for hydrotherapy tubs, wood-burning stoves and twin beds that push together into a superking.

One building, named Alcatraz for the jail site it sits on, was up and running last season with visitors from all over the United States and Europe booking stays. The fully decorated rooms form an interesting mix of rustic West Coast style and luxury accommodation, complete with replica Hudson's Bay blankets on the beds, the black bars denoting the number of pelts it cost to purchase them displayed on the side.

Within two weeks, what remains of the resilient original hotel (that survived fire and brimstone when the Port Renfrew and Shirley fire departments rescued it from an out of control kitchen fire two years ago), will be demolished. Both fire crews will return to burn the building to the ground, using it as a learning tool for their volunteer staff.

"We fought to try to keep the building, but the fire knocked out all our grandfather clauses," Conlin explained, noting the restaurant/pub replacement is designed in the old hotel's style with an oversized patio hanging over Snuggery Cove.

Built in 1927 by James Islay Mutter, the Port Renfrew Hotel replaced a similar structure on the other side of the cove. The first hotel burned to the ground after sitting vacant for two years, the byproduct of a town abandoned by government promises to build an in-road from Victoria.

Along with fishing charters, carving classes and whale watching expeditions, property owners Richard Bonnycastle (of Alberta) and Perry Heatherington (from Ontario) have a history book on the way, penned by local historian Gary Pearson. They also purchased a second 15-acre property recently, which overlooks the beachside building.

"We closed the acquisition in October," said project manager Bill Turnbull. "We're looking at additional accommodation, more cabins and a central lodge."

It's good news for local chef Clint Margetish whose employment appears secured for many years to come. Having worked at Point No Point, off a private yacht in Florida, and in various Victoria-area kitchens before landing his position with the hotel, the 31-year-old kitchen master looks forward to continued employment with the new facility and his customers can expect to see his famous chowder on new menus.

Margetish will develop both the bar and restaurant menus, saying they will include "lots of seafood." The new restaurant is "higher end," while the regular pub fare remains available in the bar.

This article published from "The Sooke News Mirrior"

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