A historic landmark in downtown Kamloops, formerly home to The Keg, will become a new lounge, restaurant and distillery.
The sale of the old CN Railway station building east of Sandman Centre by Kelowna-based Culos Group to a joint venture involving Kamloops investors is valued at $2.5 million.
The heritage-designated station was previously owned by the city, which sold it to Kelowna developer Mike Culos in a land swap deal.
Culos had been trying to sell the property since the Keg closed in 2016.
Downtown Kamloops executive director Carl DeSantis said he has seen the draft plams.
“They look absolutely fantastic and it will really fit in with the vibe of that particular area,” DeSantis said.
Two Pine Ventures president John Hromyk recently moved to Tobiano from Alberta. He said his company is working on a joint venture with Kamloops investors. The working name is Iron Horse, paying homage to the old CN station area’s train heritage.
Hromyk said the group is working with Tourism Kamloops to create an attraction downtown.
DeSantis said local hotelier and former Tourism Kamloops board chair Steve Earl is also involved. KTW has reached out to Earl for comment.
Hromyk said purchase of the station cost $2.5 million and is closing.
“The plan is to take that beautiful heritage building — which was completely renovated 15 years ago and had The Keg in there for 11 years operating, and has since been shut down for the last four years — to bring it right back to life,” Hromyk told KTW.
Hromyk noted staged development plans, beginning with opening of a bar and lounge utilizing the former Keg lounge space on the ground floor.
He said that opening may occur as early as July.
The pandemic will determine plans for a higher-end restaurant on the second floor. Hromyk said the restaurant will in time be redesigned to reflect the area and railway heritage, which he said is imperative.
“It’s the heritage that tells the story and hospitality is all about telling stories and engaging people with great food and booze — and that’s pretty much a centre focus of what we want to do there,” he said.
Two vacant lots exist on either side of the building. A distillery is planned for vacant land to the west.
Hromy said he will work with the city on obtaining a development permit and stay within height requirements allowed in the past, which he said is two-storeys and 20 feet (lower than the existing train station building).
Hromyk said the distillery would have similar aesthetic finishing as the existing building, with an aged-brick facade.
Hromyk said distilling does not require off-gassing like beer brewing, so odours should not be an issue. He anticipates work could get underway on the distillery in the fall.
He hopes to “put Kamloops on the map,” when it comes to distilling.
“The business model is that we have created an international brand from Canada called SnoDay, where we will be Canada’s gin, Canada’s vodka, Canada’s single malt,” Hromy said.
“There’s lots of guys doing ryes in the world, or Canadian whisky, and we have our own, as wel,l but there’s lots of opportunity in the international market for Canada to bring spirits to the international world, so that’s what we’re going to do. But each distillery we’re going to build will have a contract from us to produce those products for us, but also develop their own domestic and boutique brands. So, in this case, the Iron Horse brand will be Kamloops brand, but they’ll have a contract to make some of our SnoDay Spirits, as well.”
Two Pine Ventures has two distilleries on the go in Alberta and is looking for a couple of other locations in British Columbia. Plans for the remaining land parcel have yet to be determined, but Tourism Kamloops has suggested a night market.
“We’re open to ideas,” Hromy said. “But we really want to bring this together as first and foremos,t respecting the heritage and, two, really add another world-class attraction to what Kamloops has to offer.”
Calling it “long overdue,” DeSantis said he is happy to see the vacant downtown space utilized. Rocky Mountaineer tourists had arrived outside of the shuttered facility in recent years.
“This is a great fit for downtown and that location,” DeSantis said. “We look forward to the introduction of the distillery and the positive impact it will have on downtown. We’re going to see jobs created and we’re going to see a purpose for that particular location and the connectivity for the Rocky [Mountaineer] passengers, the tourists, for locals and for events, once we get back there. The proximity for the Blazers, for example. It’s just one more choice for the community when they come downtown.”