Blaming bylaw, Lulu's to close
100 part-timers to lose jobs; owner also cites cancelled show
RECORD STAFF WITH FILES FROM JOEL RUBINOFF, RECORD STAFF
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
"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
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
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