It’s the end of an era. After 61 years, the Empress Hotel’s venerable Bengal Lounge will close it’s doors permanently on April 30th.
“In support of these exciting new restaurants, the time has also come for a new era in the Bengal Lounge. The Bengal Lounge originally opened as the hotel’s Reading and Writing Room, and then the Coronet Lounge. While the future use of this room is still undecided, it will certainly continue to be an integral space within the hotel. The Bengal Lounge’s last day of service is expected to be April 30, 2016, but the legacy will live forever.”
The news sparked immediate outrage, with locals taking to social media to vent their frustration. Here are some found on our Facebook post:
“Time for a petition to let the new owners understand the significance of the Bengal Room – whose in????” ~ Geoff Lyons
“Sad that they didn’t stay true to the Victorian era on the decor. Anyone can go modern contemporary.” ~ Yvonne McDonald
“You have got to be kidding me?! That’s the only reason we go to the Empress, ever. As my husband just said, the only thing “new and exciting” that the new owners have done with the Empress that anyone appreciated was the Ice Rink out front last year, and that’s because it was an old fashioned idea that everyone loved. It’s not the Empress without the Bengal lounge!!” ~ Cheryl Budd Henley
The news sparked Victoria Buzz fan, Suzanne Johnston into action. She got to work with an online petition, with the goal of saving the lounge from imminent closure.
Over 700 people have signed the petition in under 24 hours.
“The new owners of the Fairmont Empress are destroying its history and everything that this heritage landmark stands for. We stood by and watched as they ripped out the weeping sequoias, and removed the ivy,” writes Johnston on the petition.
“Now they have plans to renovate into a modern contemporary hotel…this includes getting rid of the iconic Bengal Lounge.”
“The Empress has always been the heart of our city. It is known worldwide for its beauty and splendor. Tourists come from all over so they can step back in time. Please don’t let this historic landmark sink to corporate greed! Please sign the petition and help save the Bengal Lounge! If we let this slide..next to go will be the famous tea room!!”
The closure is part of large scale renovations of the Empress, which was bought by long-time Vancouver real-estate baron Nat Bosa and his wife Flora in 2014. From the Fairmont Empress website:
“Phase 1 of the renovation is expected to occur from October 2015 to May 2016 and will see the renovation of 245 rooms and suites including the Fairmont Gold lounge and patio, harbourview suites, tea room, restaurant, and lower level meeting spaces. The North Wing located on Humboldt Street will be fully operational to welcome guests during the Phase 1 renovation as will The Bengal Lounge. During renovations, restaurants temporarily may be relocated to other spaces as required.”
“Phase 2 is expected to run October 2016 to May 2017 to complete the remaining rooms in The Humboldt Wing and include the spa, fitness centre and lobby areas. The existing tea lobby in the centre of the hotel will be transformed into a new tea lobby and cocktail lounge that will operate into the evening and will be designed to take advantage of its view of the Inner Harbour.”
The Bengal Lounge was originally a reading room in the Francis Rattenbury-designed hotel. It was transformed into a 3,000-square-foot lounge in the 1950s.
You can find the petition here.