DUB’S PUB: Alberta Hotel bar will also be restored

Edmonton architect Gene Dub is so keen to preserve the bar in the newly reconstructed Alberta Hotel on Jasper Avenue that he’s made it a condition for his sale of the building to CKUA that he can lease the bar space from the radio station.

The bar, which Dub says he hopes will be open by late this summer or early in the fall, will be as close as possible to the original that was in the hotel before the entire building was dismantled brick by brick in 1984 and placed in storage to make way for Canada Place. (The photo you see above is the original as it appeared at that time.)

There will be a kitchen and food will be available, Dub says. He’s also hoping to have lots of outdoor patio seating, and there will be a stage for live music.

“I’m really interested in the historical side of the bar,” Dub told GigCity in a recent interview. “The only way I can ensure that it will be restored and kept in its original condition is to do it myself.”

Dub cautions, however, that he won’t be running the bar himself, and will likely sub-lease the space to another operator.

“I don’t have time to serve beer. I would probably have somebody else do that,” he says.

As GigCity told you back in April 2011, Dub abandoned his original idea to operate the still-to-be-completed building as a boutique hotel and agreed to sell it to CKUA for the station’s new home. The building will allow CKUA to move out of its current space in the Alberta Block on Jasper Avenue, where it has been since 1955. The new building uses some of the old building materials and is located right next to Canada Place, just a few metres from where it originally stood. In addition to studios for CKUA, office space for arts groups and storage facilities for the station’s massive music collection, there are also plans for CKUA to have a live performance space in the hotel, which Dub says is separate from the one in the bar.

The sale is now a done deal, Dub says, and both sides are in the final discussions of his lease terms for the bar. Dub says he’s using photos of the bar that were taken just before the building was dismantled as a guide for the restoration. Some of the original floor tiles are being used, he says, and replica tiles are being made for the rest. The original mirrors and their frames are being restored and moldings from the original ceilings are being replicated. The cash register from the bar, kept in storage by a former owner of the hotel,  will also feature prominently.

Dub says he even has some urinals from 1910 that were salvaged from the McLeod Building, another one of his projects, which he says will also in the bar’s men’s room. He says they’re so big you could probably sleep in them.

And since he’s set on preserving the history of the place, he doesn’t plan on giving it a cutesie name. So don’t expect to see a sign saying “Gene’s Grill” or “Dub’s Pub” over the entrance.

“I think we’re going to try to keep ‘Alberta Hotel’ in the name. CKUA is, I think, planning to call it the ‘CKUA Building,’ so unless you’re a real history buff you might not know it was the Alberta Hotel,” Dub explains. “So we’ll probably call it the ‘Alberta Hotel Tavern’ or the ‘Alberta Hotel Bar.'”

The original Alberta Hotel was built in 1903 and was considered the best hotel in Edmonton until the King Edward Hotel was built in 1910. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier stayed there in 1905 when Alberta entered Confederation, and the building had Edmonton’s first elevator and call-bell system linking the rooms to the front desk.

Dub has a connection to the place because he went to McCauley School and used to deliver the Edmonton Journal to subscribers at the Alberta Hotel.

It may seem hard to believe considering he’s the guy who designed City Hall and was named 100 Great Edmontonians of the past century in 2004, but he confesses he  was a member one of the neighbourhood’s tougher gangs in the late 1950s.

The hotel project hasn’t been easy. According to the Information Services Division at the Edmonton Public Library, the 2,000 chunks of original stone for the facade were laid out at the former Charles Camsell Hospital site, but many of them lacked numbers, or the numbers had worn off from being stored an outdoors city works site. So it was a puzzle to put back together.

The unique light fixtures in the bar are posing a problem, too. Dub says the originals were supposed to have been stored, but he says he can’t find them and he isn’t sure how to replicate them.

Nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills, though, and Dub isn’t counting on it to make the bar a success. He says he’s planning on luring a lunch and afternoon crowd from the Shaw Conference  Centre across the street, as well as Canada Place and the nearby arts district. He says he’s also hoping the bar will help attract nighttime customers to the east end of Jasper Avenue, although he admits that’s not going to be easy.

“They have the Hardware Grill, but they’re kind of lonely out there,” Dub says. “Maybe if we’re there, then people will feel more comfortable going up there.”