Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Hell's Clubhouse

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So what will become of the Hells Angels clubhouse on Scotia?

It was seized by the province after a police raid in late July. It goes without saying that it was a long time coming, especially for the people who live next-door.

If you go through the two court documents posted here it looks like police and ex-cop Gord Schumacher, the provincial director of the criminal property forfeiture unit, did their legal homework (download a pdf of the order and/or the statement of claim) before busting down the door at 2679 Scotia St.

Police in other Canadian cities have also seized outlaw biker clubhouses. But it's not an easy process. In Oshawa, Ont. it took police four years to finally get possession of the HA clubhouse after it was seized. It was demolished in March. The 2007 seizure of the gang's Nanaimo, B.C. clubhouse is still stuck in the courts.

How long it takes in Winnipeg is unknown. The owner of the house, Leonard Beauchemin of Keewatin, Ont., can appeal, but one has to wonder if the local chapter can mount a meaningful court challenge. Many gang members and their associates have been locked up in recent months and their ability to chip in for a defence fund is iffy at best.

If the house does end up in the province's hands, the prime riverbank property will likely be sold, the profit going back to law enforcement. The city has assessed it at $357,000, but it could fetch a lot more if properly renovated. A biker kicked out of the club several years ago bought it in the late 1990s. It became the clubhouse in 2001.

But is the seizure the end of biker clubhouses?

It'd be naïve to think so.

I remember the Los Brovos' clubhouse on Salter near Mountain, their converted church on Andrews Street, the one on Queen Street and the one on Chalmers Avenue. Then there was the Redliner's clubhouse on Notre Dame. Police shut down the Andrews Street and Notre Dame locations in late 1997 because of building and fire code violations.

"Whether you're a taxpayer in River Heights or a biker in the North End, your building has to be up to building standards and you have to have permits,'' said Winnipeg Police Const. Ken Lugg told the Free Press at the time.

The result? The bikers just moved to nicer digs.

With the clubhouse on Scotia police had the advantage of always knowing where the bikers were and who was coming and going. It was easy to block it off or arrest someone on a warrant or parole violation because they were easy to find.

Now things are kind of up in the air. Will the Hells Angels (what's left of them) move somewhere more isolated outside the city? Or will another gang move in to pick up the pieces? Where will their clubhouse be?

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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