Kitchener-Waterloo Record - Monday, February 7, 2000

 Blaming bylaw, Lulu's to close

 100 part-timers to lose jobs; owner also cites cancelled show

 Brian Caldwell

 Waterloo Region's controversial smoking bylaw is getting some of the blame for a decision to close
 Lulu's nightclub, a Kitchener landmark for 16 years.

 "This is no joke,'' owner Benn Spiegel said. "I just hope the region seriously takes a look at the

 The cavernous club in the city's south end is slated to hold its last show April 9, putting more than
 100 mostly part-time bartenders, bouncers and other employees out of work.

 It isn't the first time Lulu's has closed its doors.

 The club, a former Guinness record holder as home of the world's longest bar, went into financial
 receivership in June 1992 under previous owner John Ireland, a victim of the early '90s recession.

 Spiegel, a former Lulu's landlord, reopened the club in January 1994 determined to revamp the
 former nostalgia haven as a first-class concert venue.

 The first thing he did was cut the 104-metre-long (340-foot-long) bar in half to improve sightlines
 and accessibility. Other changes followed, but in the end they couldn't stem the flow of red ink.

 Spiegel said several factors came into play, including publicity surrounding recent fights after
 all-ages dance events and the cancellation of a Stompin' Tom Connors concert on New Year's Eve.

 Lulu's is also facing charges under the Liquor Licence Act in connection with dance events that got
 out of hand.

 Still, Spiegel said the new ban on smoking in public places, including bars, was a major factor in his
 decision to close the doors.

 "There's a lot of jobs at stake here and I'm no different than any other bar or club in the region,'' he
 said. "(The bylaw) might have been a good idea, but it needs modification.''

 Mayor Carl Zehr said he wasn't surprised to learn of the closure because competition in the local
 bar scene is so intense.

 "I never like to see any business close up,'' he said. "It means a loss to different people for different

 Despite the high-profile announcement, Zehr said it's still too early to gauge how much impact the
 smoking bylaw is having on businesses.

 And he speculated that Lulu's days may have been numbered because development in the south end
 of the city has driven up land values.

 "I've always thought that use of the property was an interim use,'' he said. "It's hard to have that
 large of a property and only use it once or twice a week.''

 Barry Grieve, owner of several bars and nightclubs in downtown Kitchener, also said he's heard
 rumblings that Lulu's might go to make way for a new project on its King Street East site.

 "It's no shock to me that they've finally got their price,'' he said.

 But Spiegel, whose family is part of an investment group that owns the Lulu's plaza, denied there's
 any deal in the works to cash in on the development boom in that area of the city.

 "The commitment was to the club,'' he said. "I mean, this is a historical facility. For all the time and
 money I put into it, what am I going to realize at an auction sale?

 "You could go anywhere in North America and run into somebody who had heard of Lulu's or been
 to Lulu's. That's the truth. I don't want to be doing this.''

 The club, which opened in 1984 in a building that once housed a K-Mart store, was for years a
 mecca for nostalgia buffs who saw many headliners from their youth perform there. In its heyday,
 bus tours brought fans from all over southern Ontario and western New York.

 Ken Hollis, Lulu's emcee and public relations manager during the club's glory days, says he
 suspects the building will be torn down. "I'll miss it. If the building gets torn down a part of me will
 be torn down with it.''

 Lulu's head of security is philosophical about the impending closure.

 "I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles,'' says Tommy Riedel. "The market is changing. It's
 just an unfortunate turn of events.''

 Waterloo Region Chairman Ken Seiling declined to comment on Spiegel's claim that the smoking
 ban was a major factor in the decision.

 Like Zehr, he said it's too early to tell how much of the opposition is based in fact and how much is
 just rhetoric.

 "I wouldn't have a clue whether it's valid or not,'' said Seiling. "Unless somebody opened their
 books up for the last year, I don't know how you'd come to that conclusion. I've also heard there
 are lineups to get into some bars.''

 Spiegel said the 75,000-square-foot club is still making money, but it had turned to dance shows in
 the last year because live musical acts were no longer drawing crowds. And although the all-ages
 events turn a tidy profit, he said, they attract tough customers who bring trouble along with their

 To a large extent, Spiegel said, he just doesn't want to run a club with the dangerous reputation
 Lulu's is getting.

 "I don't want to be perceived as a trouble-maker,'' he said. "Do you think I want my children going
 there and risk being shot or stabbed in the parking lot?

 "I started out with a dream eight years ago and now I'm dealing with reality. It's going to go down
 the toilet -- and I don't want to be there when it does.''

 If there is to be a gravestone marker, Riedel knows what the inscription should read: "Here lies
 many a man's dreams,'' he said. "And let it be known -- the greatest concert venue in Canada.''


 Cambridge Reporter - Monday, February 7, 2000

 Local bars feel pinch of bylaw

 No-smoking law is one of the reasons Lulu's will close

 by Jason Gennings
 Cambridge Reporter
 with files from TorStar

 KITCHENER - Lulu's Roadhouse will be closing in April.

 According to a release sent to the media yesterday the decision to close the Kitchener bar was
 forced by three reasons:

 "1) Lulu's has suffered a great deal of bad publicity as a result of some of our shows which have
 been necessary to book in order to keep Lulu's open and operating. 2) Some of the recent well
 publicized operating losses, e.g. New Year's Eve. 3) The recently implemented non-smoking

 Benn Spiegel, one of Lulu's owners was unavailable for comment.

 The release goes on to say that the bar will program a variety of diverse shows to give everyone a
 chance to revisit the popular concert spot.

 Some of the shows posted for Lulu's include Sloan, Wu Tang, Mike Mandell and the Energy 108
 all-ages party. A Bike Show is scheduled April 1 and 2, one week before the April 9th, closing date.

 Some of the bad publicity for Lulu's began Aug. 22 when dozens of fights broke out after an
 all-ages party. A crowd of about 1,000 people were dispersed by 33 police officers. Police were
 tipped off about the fights by Lulu's staff.

 Another near riot occurred at 2 a.m. Nov. 27 when two men suffered slashed arms when a crowd
 of about 2,000 people, mostly minors, filled the parking lot. Every spare police unit from Kitchener,
 Cambridge, and Waterloo, including some OPP, was used to help control the crowd.

 After the second riot, Mr. Spiegel said the club was not responsible for being enforcers on public

 "We are responsible for what happens inside our premises," he said.

 For the Dec. 17 all-ages dance police took some preventative measures by operating vehicle
 checkpoints on the traffic coming into Lulu's. There were eight Highway Traffic Act charges, 16
 liquor offense charges, six controlled substance charges, and one Criminal Code charge laid. There
 was no riot that night.

 The New Year's trouble started when Lulu's had to cancel a Stompin' Tom Connors concert due to
 lack of interest. Mr. Connors was reportedly upset about the cancellation because he had a 35-year
 career record of never missing a publicized performance.

 "At this point, he's got $50,000 which is lost. Our advertising costs are lost. He's suing us for the
 balance and damages, and we're suing for damages," said Mr. Spiegel in a December interview.

 The nightclub was facing review of its liquor license by the province's Alcohol and Gaming

*Please hit the "Back" button of your browser to return to the previous page.*