Photo: Tom Zillich David Geertz (left) and Charan Sethi in the Flamingo hotel lounge on King George Boulevard in Surrey.

Surrey’s Flamingo bars will fly again with live music and more

Entertainment overhaul at longtime hotel property in Whalley

Some nightlife will return to the Flamingo hotel bars that have operated in Whalley for several decades, but not in recent months.

The building’s former strip club, lounge and liquor store have been shuttered since last spring, and new plans have been drawn to feature live music and other forms of entertainment in the bars there.

David Geertz, a White Rock resident, has been brought in as a partner by property owner and developer Charan Sethi, president of Richmond-based Tien Sher Group, to help create an arts and culture hub at the Flamingo, which has seen better days since it opened in 1955.

Eventually, residential towers will be built on the hotel site, but plans are to make the current licensed establishments go-to destinations over the next five or six years, until the buildings are demolished.

• READ MORE: Surrey council approves ‘iconic’ project that aims to revitalize Whalley, from June 2017.

“We need to bring some life to the area,” Sethi told the Now-Leader during a site tour. “We are now building our fifth building and by the time we’re finished that one, we will have around 660 units, and four or five commercial units. You have to get that synergy right, to have something to do for the people moving in. There’s nothing here right now, as much as we like to believe there is. We have some nice little niche restaurants in the area, some great food, but we need to have more.”

With Legion of Sound, a program of Penmar Community Arts Society, Geertz has staged a series of concerts at Ocean Park hall in South Surrey over the past year, as part of the organization’s mandate as “a non-profit concerts booking, routing, and presentation program that brings shows to communities outside of larger metropolitan areas.”

• READ MORE: “Seaside Shindig” supports original bands in Surrey, White Rock, from Sept. 2017.

Sethi took in the recent “Seaside Shindig” fundraiser hosted by Legion of Sound at White Rock’s Star of the Sea hall. The $60-a-ticket event, held Sept. 30, raised money to bring live music to the masses in the Semiahmoo area.

“(Geertz) invited me to that event I thought, if he could do that at the Flamingo, it will work,” said Sethi, who sees a potential entertainment hub in his property at 10768 King George Blvd.

Combined, the three bars there – the former strip club, lounge and Panchos rock club – are licensed to hold more than 600 people.

The Byrd strip club will be re-imagined as a place for electronic, hip-hop, R&B and other types of music, along with comedy and special events, while the Flamingo lounge is seen as a venue for rock and indie music.

”I’d like to keep the name Flamingo as the overall establishment, and then my idea is to rename each room as a different bird that’s West Coast-based,” Geertz said. “We’re tossing around ideas, like the Crow Bar at the Flamingo, the Starling Room, the Pigeon – have some fun with it. We were talking about calling it Wattage after Dianne Watts – but that’s just a joke, right.”

Geertz said “not much in the way of renovations need to be done, other than some serious cleaning and de-cluttering. There are a few pieces of equipment that need to be swapped out, and that’s it. This room is EQ’d for sound, it’s great, and everything works.”

In one corner of the former strip club, Geertz and Sethi want to bring in tables for cards and other casino games as a room people could book for fundraisers and special events.

“Right now,” Geertz said, “one of the fastest ways to raise money for community groups is to have a private bookable venue to run a casino night, and that’s something this venue will also do. So not only bands and all that, but if you want to book it and have your own fundraiser, like, right now, this is the room for that. We’re talking baccarat, roulette, poker, craps. It will all stay her permanently. It’s an easy way for an organization to raise good money.”

The vision is to have the new-look bars up and running sometime this month, without a kitchen for the entire operation.

“It’s just one extra headache you don’t need,” Geertz said about food service. “You look at the other special-event rooms in Vancouver like the Imperial. Their website has a for-profit booking rate and a non-profit booking rate, and here’s a list of caterers that (venue renters) can choose from, the ones we allow you to work with for your event in this venue. That’s what we see happening here.

“We also see having a turnkey system similar to, for example, the WISE Hall or St. James Hall in Vancouver,” Geertz continued. “The WISE Hall is actually a bookable venue where you pay rent, you keep the ticket (money) but they run the bar and all that money goes toward putting on arts on Commercial Drive. It’s run by the WISE Hall Society. It’s the same thing at St. James Hall in Kitsilano but it’s run by Rogue Folk Club, and the money is used for folk programming. So here, anyone who wants to use the venue talks to us, the booker, and there’ll be a corporate rate, a non-profit rate and a band rate.”

Moving forward, the Flamingo name isn’t going anywhere.

“I am protective of that name, so it will stay,” Sethi said. “And the tower that is eventually built here, it will be called the Flamingo. Eventually these existing buildings will come down, but for the next five or six years, we’ll make this a humming part of town – maybe Hummingbird for one of the bar names, right? As we create more of an entertainment district, we then move the businesses into the new building.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

$500K richer in lottery win, Surrey mom plans to buy townhouse for family

‘I’m already thinking of new furniture,’ says Lea Turner

Surrey murder victim’s sister pressuring feds during election

Maple Batalia’s sister Roseleen wants politicians to improve lot of victims after killer received compassionate leave from prison

Hat-wearing suspect sought in Guildford-area taxi robbery

Man was picked up in the 15900-block of Fraser Highway then driven to 163rd Street

PHOTOS: 109th birthday party for ‘amazing’ Surrey man who still shops on his own and plays bingo

Ja Hyung Lee wore a suit and tie to his special event at retirement home in Newton

Surrey RCMP looking for owner of stolen catalytic converters

They were found last Thursday, along with some power tools, in an abandoned rental truck

VIDEO: “How dare you?” Greta Thunberg addresses UN climate summit

‘We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money.’

Pettersson has 4 points as Canucks dump Ottawa 6-4

Vancouver wins NHL pre-season tilt in Abbotsford

British man returns to Yukon to tipple his own toe in long-running tradition

So-called sourtoe cocktail is a shot of whisky with a mummified human toe in it

Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news

Province announces $3.5 million in funding for community solutions to overdose crisis

Grants up to $50,000 will be available for municipalities working with a regional health authority

Conservatives’ plan to ease mortgage stress-test rules may raise debt and prices

Andrew Scheer vows to loosen rules around stress test and remove it altogether for mortgage renewals

B.C. mom urges patience after rude comments while out with toddlers

People asked to be better and to help each other

U.S. wrestler says viral speeding ticket video was staged

WWE wrestler Lacey Evans says she does not condone disrespecting law enforcement officers

‘Own a piece of history’: Beachcombers location Molly’s Reach up for sale

‘This is one of B.C.’s most photographed buildings’

Most Read