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

Alberni pub owner kicks off new event for car lovers

Car enthusiast Helen Poon debuts Cars and Coffee on May 27

Helen Poon loves cars.

So much so that Poon, the new owner of the Kingsway Hotel and Pub in Port Alberni has been written up in driving and car magazines and has won several different auto-based awards.

Driving.ca calls her an “unlikely car collector”: although in her mid-20s, Poon has already owned a dozen Jaguars, according to a 2015 article, as well as several Rolls-Royces and other such European cars.

At the Western Driver All British Field Meet in Vancouver in 2017, Poon won the Youngtimer Award with her 1938 MG TA convertible as well as two class awards (with the MG and a 1960 Lotus Seven convertible). In 2015 she won a class award with her 1969 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (saloon).

“I have a variety of cars” from American to English, Swedish, Italian and German makes. “My preference is pre-Second World War cars,” she says. “My collection spans between 1928 and 2001.”

While she may collect cars, she believes they should be driven: in 2015 she drove a 1937 Rolls-Royce in a car rally through sleet and snow around Princeton. Purchased in Surrey in 2014, Poon put 10,000 kilometres on the Rolls-Royce in little more than a year.

Poon’s connection to Port Alberni is even through cars: she was participating in a rally on Vancouver Island organized through Classic Car Adventures and stopped in the city to visit with another rally participant, realtor Dave Koszegi. He eventually connected Poon to the Kingsway, and she has invested in renovations to the historic building.

RELATED: Vancouver investor breathes new life into historic Kingsway Hotel

Now, Poon wants to share her love of automobiles with like-minded car enthusiasts in Port Alberni: she is launching Cars and Coffee on Sunday, May 27 to coincide with the reopening of the Kingsway Pub (happening on Saturday, May 26). Cars and Coffee will be an opportunity for people to drive their cars down to the Kingsway and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat with people interested in the same thing. The event will start at 10 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. Cars can park around the Kingsway Hotel and Pub, as well as the parking lot across the street.

“Because I’m interested in cars I want to have car gatherings,” Poon says. “We don’t have a place in Port Alberni to have car enthusiasts gather.”

She enjoyed a preview of the event’s potential on May 11 when she hosted several car enthusiasts from Vancouver on a tour through Port Alberni and out to the west coast. Some of the cars—an Audi, a Lexus SUV, Poon’s Austin Mini and a McLaren—attracted the attention of passersby, who parked and got out to admire the vehicles and ask some questions.

Poon is hoping everyone with an interest in their vehicles will come out to Cars and Coffee—owners don’t have to have a classic, European or racing car to participate.

“Everyone is welcome, even if you drive a soccer mom vehicle,” says Poon. “As long as you love your car, you’re welcome.”

Poon hopes Cars and Coffee will become a monthly event, the last Sunday of every month.

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.


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