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New Westminster Keg property owner ‘figures they’re done’

The owners of the building currently leased by The Keg say the restaurant has not maintained the building as required under the agreement. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER file
The owners of the building currently leased by The Keg say the restaurant has not maintained the building as required under the agreement.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER file

The structural issues that caused The Keg Restaurants to close its iconic New Westminster location last month were there 10 years ago and should have been fixed by the company by now, according to one of the property’s owners.

The former CPR railway station site on Columbia Street at Eighth Street is owned by the Westminster Station Brewing Company, which bought it in the late 1990s.

When the original 30-year lease expired in 2002 a new one was negotiated. It was to include an additional space at the west end of the historical building to what The Keg was using.

Co-owner Brock Rodgers said in 2002 substantial upgrades were needed to the building, so they negotiated a below-market rate for 10 years, with The Keg responsible for repairs and maintenance.

Since the work was supposed to be done over the decade, in September 2012 a higher pre-negotiated lease rate was to kick in for the remaining five years on the lease.

Rodgers said it was apparent last spring The Keg had not made use of the extra space and hadn’t done the repairs, so Rodgers’ company hired an engineer to do an assessment and presented it to The Keg.

“It was just a whole bunch of small stuff; a new roof, brick work needs to be redone,” said Rodgers. “It was nothing dramatic. Nothing is going to fall down or anything, but it sure needs some love and care.”

Rodgers said The Keg’s decision to close caught them by surprise, and they only heard about it second hand from an employee after it occurred Jan. 6.

“They’re under no obligation to stay open. I’m more than happy to collect their rent while they’re closed,” said Rodgers. “There was nothing in that report that said you should close those doors tomorrow. I think there’s a bigger economic situation there. It’s not for me to comment on how The Keg runs their business.

“I figure they’re done. They’re waiting to negotiate their way out of the lease.”

When asked to respond to Rodgers’ comments, Keg Restaurants spokeswoman Karyn Byrne replied in an email from the company’s headquarters in Toronto, “At this time, we are continuing to assess the situation in order to develop an operations plan. That process is still ongoing.”

Rodgers and his partner also own the Mission Springs brewpub in Mission and the Billy Miner Pub in Maple Ridge. They’d like to be able to sell their Mission Springs brand at a pub restaurant in the old CPR building in New West, but provincial regulations say craft beer can only be sold in the pub where it’s made. So instead of providing jobs for a local product, they would end up having to pay big bucks to bring in brew from the United States and Europe to stock the pub, which Rodgers maintains wouldn’t make sense for their business.

“The Keg would make a great craft beer house. It’s got the great look and the great location. But that’s dampened by the provincial regulations,” said Rodgers. He also said Westminster Station has had a long-standing debate with the city over the lack of off-site parking, after it converted the street on the east side of the building into Hyack Square, taking away several spots. The company has suggested metered parking in the square except during public functions, but has had little support for the concept from the city.

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