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They put up a parking lot?

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In January, my heart sank when I stumbled across the news on my Facebook feed: the city of Winnipeg was buying the historic, rambling old Windsor Hotel, with plans to tear it down and turn it into a parking lot.

Or at least, so the rumour went. After a frenzy of grassroots activism, media attention, and outpourings of raw emotion, it became known that the city didn’t want the building and definitely didn’t want to make it a parking lot. Phew!

Now, I find myself wondering: did that wildfire of baseless panic and community-mobilizing outrage inspire anyone else – say, any gutsy marketing folks – to try to evoke the same passion in their audience?

On Wednesday, the news broke (again on Facebook) that downtown nightclub Whiskey Dix would be closing its enormous patio and turning it into – here’s this idea again – a parking lot. Say sayonara to the biggest nightclub patio in the city, organizers said, and wave hello to what owners said would be an expanded lot that would add 20 more spots for staff and a "VIP valet service."
On a Facebook group for the patio’s scheduled demolition party on April 3, someone (presumably bar management) wrote that the expanded parking lot made better business sense for its "year-round value."

Oh yeah? Ten or so "valet parking" spots directly flanking the building will raise more cash in a year than the hundreds of people who drink their faces off at Whiskey Dix in the summer in large part because of the draw of that patio? Gosh, the profit margins on booze are smaller than I thought. (Or, alternately, I need to quit writing and get into the valet parking biz, stat.)

Understandably, as they were with the Windsor, people were outraged by a sick party spot’s impending transformation to concrete parking pad. By Thursday afternoon, the first of two Facebook protest groupshad over 600 members, most of whom were pledging never to return to Whiskey Dix and bemoaning the death of the patio.

That Facebook group was started by Hot 103 / QX 104 jock Adam West. He also happens to be the stations’ promotions co-ordinator. I’m just sayin’.

Sensing some funny business, my colleague Bartley Kives put in a call to the city’s planning, property and development department on Wednesday. After all, most of Whiskey Dix’s north-side lot isn’t zoned for parking. So if they wanted to turn it into parking, they’d need to get their paperwork in a row and submit an application for rezoning.

Only, a spokesperson for the city said that no such application had been made. What’s more, any such request would be saved for a public hearing, probably in front of the councilors of the downtown development committee… and they might be loathe to approve it, given the talk around city hall recently about reducing downtown surface lots.

So it’s sort of interesting that Whiskey Dix announced a conversion to a parking lot and scheduled a Goodbye Patio Party, even before they’d filed the necessary application to build a parking lot, isn’t it?

On Thursday, I called the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission to check the status of the Whiskey Dix patio. Normally, if an establishment plans to stop using a liquor-licensed area, it would let the MLCC know. And the MLCC’s inspectors haven’t heard anything from Whiskey Dix about not needing their patio’s liquor license after next weekend; all signs would indicate that the club is planning on continuing with its current set of licenses.

So for all of those heartbroken today about the impending loss of the Whiskey Dix patio – and I was among your ranks this morning, as I rushed to throw together a story about its demise – take some heart, and fear not. If the demolition team actually starts pulling up the boards after April 3, I’ll eat these words… but somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

See you guys under the giant disco ball.

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