Resurrection of the RAAH

Royal Albert Arms Hotel reopens (again)

Mike Sudoma

The Royal Albert Arms Hotel (RAAH) has been locked up tight for almost a year, but the infamous hotel bar is nearly ready to reopen for business as usual, sharing the news with the world via Facebook in mid-August.

"We can’t wait no longer, the Royal Albert will open Sept 4 with or without our liquor license," the post reads.

The first weekend's lineup includes a cover band night on Sept. 4 and a performance by Romi Mayes on Sept. 5.

The reopening comes over a year after the doors closed as a result of ongoing issues with the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, now known as the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba. The closing was followed by a cryptic RAAH Facebook post on Nov. 24, 2013 which read "I will be at the MLCC this week to re-activate the Liquor License for the Royal Albert.” This was a day after owner Darren Jorgensen’s outspoken partner, Ray Rybachuk, died in a snowmobiling accident (remember “Bun Gate”?).

But the bar remained closed and news has been scarce until last month. The buzz is now in full swing among locals including RAAH regular Andrew Hedley, who has been gripped with anticipation since the announcement.

"(The RAAH) was the best venue in the city for live music. I honestly can't describe how amazing it was to experience that place,” he says.

To many, Hedley included, the RAAH is much more than just another bar.

"Some of the best experiences I've had were as simple as walking through the door and seeing all the familiar faces. It spawned a music scene and gave its followers a place to go and have fun," Hedley recalls.

"It just seemed like both The Albert and the people going to the venue really supported the independent, underground music scenes, which made me appreciate the uniqueness of what that venue had and what it represented."

Musician Romi Mayes is also thrilled by the news and about her upcoming performance.

"I am pretty stoked that The Albert is opening again. It's a fuckin' Winnipeg institution for rock n' roll," Mayes says.

But Mayes is quick to note that performing there is not a condition to being a RAAH devotee.

"I've partaken in way too many draft nights growing up to count and have seen some of the best shows I have ever seen on that stage. I've always loved playing there in the past and this will be no exception,” she says. “(I'm) honoured to help the grand resurrection kick off by rockin' that stage once again."

The only loose end is the liquor license - an issue that remains apparently unresolved.

Daren Jorgenson, owner of the RAAH, did not return request for comment on the license by press time.

Patrons hoping for a brew at the reopening may find themselves out of luck.

" prepared to drink fu**ing soda just in case," RAAH’s Facebook page warns.

And for Hedley that’s OK.

"It's so much more than just ... a bunch of drinks,” Hedley says. “It introduced me to amazing people, new friendships and new bands that broadened my horizons."

Published in Volume 69, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 3, 2014)

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