Downtown music venue The Queen’s up for sale

NANAIMO – Owner Jerry Hong put the Nanaimo landmark on the market for $1.29 million.

One of Nanaimo’s oldest and best-known music venues is up for sale.

Jerry Hong, who has owned the Queen’s Hotel since since 2007, listed the property in December for $1.29 million.

Hong, who sold the Occidental Hotel to foreign buyers in December, said he is just feeling out the market.

The Occidental sold in eight months, but Hong said he’s in no hurry to sell and won’t consider offers to buy the Queen’s for less than his asking price.

“I don’t have an exit strategy where I already have something else lined up,” Hong said. “I’m going to still focus on this business and if the option comes up and if somebody’s interested in buying it then I’ll sell it.”

Some long-standing pubs have closed recently, including the Harewood Arms and the Arlington Hotel. The Foundry Pub has scaled back operations, the Black Bear Pub is for sale, the Patricia Hotel is scheduled for kitchen renovations and the Jolly Miner Pub has been under renovations for more than a year. Miller’s Landing Pub will reopen under new ownership after renovation work is complete.

Pubs close or sell for various reasons, but affecting all pubs are changing government regulations that once protected markets for independent private liquor stores and pubs, Hong said. Liquor will be sold in grocery stores, restaurants can serve liquor without serving food and government liquor stores will stay open Sundays and offer products once exclusive to private retailers and there are changes to wholesale pricing for liquor products, too.

John Wicks, Black Bear Pub owner since 1990, is selling the pub so he can retire, but shares Hong’s sentiments.

“Everything they’ve done is all for the restaurants, the big chains,” Wicks said. “The chains are getting stronger and the private enterprises are getting smaller and this government encourages that.”

Jim Hutt, owner of the Wheatsheaf Inn in Cedar, and Wicks said their pubs enjoy strong business partly because of their locations away from the cluster of pubs and restaurants in the downtown core, but Hutt said lack of enforcement over licensing restrictions hurts pubs.

“All these kinds of restaurants, they kind of operate like pubs,” Hutt said. “It’s tough because they hold a food-primary licence and we hold a liquor-primary licence. Our licence is more expensive, but a lot of these restaurants are operating like a liquor-primary… It’s not an equal playing field in Nanaimo.”

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