Helen Poon, right, the new owner of the Kingsway Hotel and Pub, shows some visiting car aficionados around Port Alberni on May 11. The drivers brought their McLaren 675 LT, Mini Cooper, Audi TTRS and Lexus NX200 vehicles to tour the central Island. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Vancouver investor breathes new life into historic Port Alberni hotel and pub

New owner hopes to have Kingsway Pub open by Victoria Day weekend

Vancouver investor Helen Poon has a history of taking buildings in the worst part of the Downtown Eastside and transforming them. Now, she is hoping to bring some of that success to Port Alberni with her latest acquisition: the Kingsway Hotel and Pub.

One of Poon’s apartment projects in the DTES saw her successfully remove the criminal element and turn the building into a better place for lower income residents to live. “I grew up in fortunate circumstances,” she says. “I thought I could make this place good enough for myself and offer it to people who need some shelter.”

Poon visited Port Alberni last May on a trip to Ucluelet with a group of classic car owners. On the way, she stopped in Port Alberni, where fellow club member Dave Koszegi is a realtor, and asked him to show her “the worst part of town. He took me to Fourth and Angus. We drove by the Kingsway and I said ‘this place looks really bad and I want to do something about it.’”

The Kingsway, which was listed for $439,000 with NAI Commercial Central Vancouver Island, boasts of seven hotel rooms and the pub. Poon made an offer and bought the building. Then she got busy with renovations.

“We’re trying to make the interior reflect the heritage of Port Alberni,” she says. “We want to bring back a 1920s kind of feel to the building.”

Gone are the beer-soaked carpets and drop ceilings, revealing a fir floor and 12-foot-high ceilings. One of the walls will feature natural timber rounds in an homage to the area’s forest industry.

While the interior will be updated, Poon is bringing back traditional touches like the 22-foot shuffleboard table and pool table. “Some of our patrons are asking if we’re keeping knick-knacks and photos.

“Yes, we’re keeping them, because we want to preserve the history,” says Poon. “There are a lot of neat things in that pub.”

One of the interesting things Poon discovered was the collection of vintage beer bottles, which had lined a shelf near the ceiling.

In the renovated Kingsway Pub the beer bottle collection will be behind display glass at eye level “so people can actually see it.”

Work crews also discovered some vintage paintings that Poon estimates were done in the 1920s. They were able to save some of them, she said.

The Kingsway has been closed since Feb. 24 as Poon, contractor Chase Yellowquill of First Canadian Construction Corp. and others assessed what needed to be done: that included replacing the roof.

“We took six tonnes of garbage out,” Poon said.

The complete renovation will be done in phases and will take about two years in total. The hotel portion will be transformed into executive-style apartments that will be available for monthly rentals—a gap in service that Poon sees in the Alberni Valley. Existing tenants will be allowed to stay on if they want to “and we’ll do improvements around them.”

The kitchen isn’t open yet, but Poon says they will get it up and running “in the future.” In the meantime she is exploring options such as food trucks, but admits the selection in town is small. Regular entertainment is also in the plans, as is a wine bar and a whisky bar.

“Hopefully, locals will be surprised and happy with what we’re doing and hopefully tourists will come too.”

She also hopes she can attract other investors from Vancouver to the Alberni Valley. “I’m very excited to have this place open. I see a lot of opportunity in this place.” The area has seen development in the past few years, with the marine business and the new Thunderbird apartment building down the block.

“I think change is good here,” says Poon. “Any positive change is good.”

Poon will bring her love of cars to the Kingsway with a new monthly event called Cars and Coffee. The first such gathering will take place outside the Kingsway and in the parking lot across the street on Sunday, May 27 from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. “Everyone is welcome, even if you drive a soccer mom vehicle,” says Poon, who owns a number of European vehicles, from a Mini Cooper to a vintage Rolls Royce (“My preference is for pre-Second World War cars,” she says. “My collection spans between 1928 and 2001.”).

“We plan to have this as a monthly event the last Sunday of every month.

“As long as you love your car, you’re welcome.”

Poon and Yellowquill hope to have the Kingsway Pub open by the Victoria Day long weekend. The Kingsway is located at 3203 Kingsway Ave. at Athol Street, near the Port Alberni Train Station. For more information, check the website at www.kingswayhotelandpub.ca, or @kingswayhotelandpub on Facebook and Instagram. The phone number is 778-421-2133.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO)
Nanaimo man killed in Highway 4 crash

RCMP say dirt bike turned ‘suddenly’ into traffic

Port Alberni’s deepsea port was a busy place on July 14, 2020, with recreational boaters vying for attention with a logging ship, fishing vessels large and small, tugboats and more. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
QUINN’S QUIPS: ‘Port’ Alberni lives up to its deepsea name

Port Alberni’s harbour is an engaging place to stop and watch the action on the water…

Asher Brown of Port Alberni, 11, is making a name for himself in B.C. motocross action. He and his dad, Geoff Brown, started riding with Alberni Motocross Association (AVMX) at the same time. (DOUG FISK PHOTO)
Alberni Motocross signs new land deal with Mosaic

Land Use Agreement ensures continued motocross action on Cherry Creek track

The Alberni-Clayoquot Recycling Depot is located on Third Avenue in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
EDITORIAL: It’s Waste Reduction Week in Canada. What are you doing to reduce waste?

The ACRD has launched a new ACRD Collects app to assist in diverting more waste from the landfill

Carys Howland, 10, and her sister Julian, 6, find a quiet spot to read the books they picked up at the Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley’s book sale at Echo Centre in 2019. (SONJA DRINKWATER PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Giant book sale cancelled for 2020

Book sale is an annual fundraiser for Port Alberni’s Community Arts Council

Port Alberni resident Holly Braker-McLaughlin captured footage of five bears playing in her yard. (SCREENSHOT)
VIDEO: Quintet of bears frolic in Alberni Valley yard

Port Alberni family was treated to a visit from some playful black bears

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Nanaimo RCMP arrest man with axe in downtown park. (File photo)
Man seen with axe at Nanaimo park, numerous RCMP officers respond

Incident happened Friday evening at Maffeo Sutton Park

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Skiers line up to start the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race. Photo by Tim Penney
Popular Comox Valley adventure race cancelled for 2021

COVID forces Comox Valley Royal LePage Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race cancellation again

Most Read