Wednesday, March 29, 2017

160 Osborne Street - Former Osborne Village Motor Inn,-97.1442076,3a,75y,62.79h,81.69t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sQBkXQKLsVp6CtjqdDwXx5A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

Place: Former Osborne Village Motor Inn
Address: 160 Osborne Street (Map)
Opened: June 1965
Architects: Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna
Contractor: Kraft Construction Ltd.
Cost: $900,000

The early 1960s were the glory years for higher-end motel development in Winnipeg.

Ever since people started travelling primarily by private automobile in the 1950s motels were a popular choice thanks to the convenience of being able to park for free outside your door.

What set these 1960s motels apart was that they offered amenities that were once the domain of downtown hotels, such as fine restaurants, lounges, entertainment spaces and banquet facilities. They also provided things that most downtown hotels couldn't at the time: spacious, air conditioned rooms with large windows.

In 1961, the Gordon Hotel chain unveiled its Curtis Gordon and Assiniboine Gordon motels and the Carlton Motor Inn opened on Carlton Street. The same year that 160 Osborne was constructed, 1965, the Westminster Motor Hotel (now Sherbrook Inn ) and the Dakota Motor Hotel were also built.

June 30, 1965, Winnipeg Tribune

This three-storey motel was built for Oscar Grubert's Champs Foods International.

Champs was best known as the Canadian rights holder for the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. In fact, most Manitobans knew the chain as simply "Champs Chicken" for over a decade.

A motel chain was part of the Champs' long-term business plan but this would be no low-end chicken shack.

Top: As Champs Motor Inn, June 30, 1965, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: Champs Ad, June 30, 1965, Winnipeg Free Press

Architects Waisman Ross Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hanna, (now called Number Ten Architectural Group), designed the building which cost a reported $900,000 to build. It was constructed so that two additional floors could be added at a later date, but never were.

The 32 rooms featured air conditioning and custom built furniture. There was a conference room for 250 as well as four restaurants and lounges, including the Cock and Bull, Winnipeg’s only charcoal pit steakhouse. The Rolls Royce Piano Lounge featured live entertainment nightly and the motel's Rolls Royce was used in promotional material and as a "loaner car" for those who booked weddings at the venue.

The maitre d'hotel was Derek Toms who used to manage the Grandome Hotel at Grand Beach.
Undated album recorded at Champs (Discogs)

The house entertainer in both the Cock and Bull and Rolls Royce Lounge for the first three years or so was Welsh pianist / singer Idris Evans, who even recorded a live album there. The Tribune's Gene Telpner said in a review that Evans was: "Doubly blessed with a  good singing voice plus a velvet touch on the keyboard."

After his run, Evans returned to England and toured as the pianist for Sarah Churchill, a songwriter and poet and daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.

July 16, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

After just a few years, Champs decided to that the motel business was not for them, opting instead to concentrate on their restaurants. In the years to come that would include chains like Grubee's and Mother Tuckers as well as stand-alone restaurants like Pierre's.

In July, 1970 they announced that they were selling up.
Top: As the Plaza Motor Inn (CardboardAmerica on Flickr)
Bottom: March 15, 1972, Winnipeg Tribune

The new owner was National Promotions which was owned by the Kives family of K-Tel fame.

At the time they also owned the Westminster Motor Hotel, (now Sherbrook Inn) and the Viscount Gort Hotel. They rechristened the Osborne Street property the Plaza Motor Inn and named the chain K-Tel Motor Inns.

K-Tel did little in the way of renovations. The Rolls Royce Lounge stayed and they introduced The Studio, a basement beverage room and discotheque, likely in the space that used to be The Huntsman Lounge.

This was the era of the rock band beverage room in Winnipeg hotels and The Club transformed into a showcase. Bryan Adams played there shortly before he got his big break.

K-tel's motel business didn't last much longer than Champs' did.

In 1978, they sold off both motels, though retained the Viscount Gort, expanded it, and continue to own it to this day.

July 21, 2007, Winnipeg Free Press

The next, and final, owners of the motel were the Green brothers, with Chuck as the front man. The Greens were no strangers to the bar business. Growing up, their father owned the Westbrook Hotel on Keewatin Street.

They purchased it in 1978, though the new name, "Osborne Village Motor Inn", did not come until 1980.

July 21, 2007, Winnipeg Free Press

It was under the Greens that the rock bar "The Zoo" became famous across the country as a must-play venue in the city.  In a 2007 Free Press story, David Sanderson sat down with Chuck and compiled a list of just some of the bands that played its stage, (above).

The basement lounge-turned-discotehque became Ozzy'z bar.

When Chuck died in 2011, brothers Coleman and Dave took over. It was they who sold the building in August 2015.

Rumoured plans for the building included conversion into a boutique hotel or condominiums.

In late March 2017, it was finally announced by owners Fusion Capital Corporation that the building would be gutted then turned into "micro-suite" apartments for rent upstairs with reconfigured commercial space on the main floor.

Parts of the redeveloped building could reopen as early as this fall.


2017 Redevelopment
Osborne Village Inn to reopen with 'micro-apartments' CBC
Osborne Village developer envisions micro-apartments Metro
New plan for Osborne Village Inn Winnipeg Free Press

2015 Sale
Osborne Village hotel sold, future of space unknown CBC
Osborne Inn on the way out? Winnipeg Free Press

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