Tribute band Gunz N’ FN’ Rosez on stage at The Flamingo during a concert at the King George Boulevard venue in 2018. (file photo: Keith Clark Photography/The Flamingo)

UPDATE: Surrey’s Flamingo ‘closing forever’ in February, with demolition planned soon after

Whalley venue reopened under new management in January 2018

This story has been updated

The music will end at Surrey’s Flamingo hotel bars following a series of concerts this month and next, and the demolition of the landmark building is planned to happen soon after.

Operators of the Whalley entertainment venue say it is “closing forever” after a last event there on Feb. 23.

The looming closure, blamed on rising property taxes and insurance premiums, was announced Tuesday in a post on the Flamingo’s Facebook page.

“We’ve been struggling, and making zero dollars from the live music there,” developer Charan Sethi, president of Richmond-based Tien Sher Group, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday.

Sethi, who bought the property more than a decade ago, has long planned to build condos on the site, as part of a “Flamingo Block” development.

The three-bar Flamingo operated in the heart of Whalley since 1955, before going dormant in the spring of 2017. Late that year, Sethi partnered with event promoter David Geertz to bring nightlife back to the place, with an emphasis on live, original music, as a temporary, five- to six-year plan for the building.

The end has come sooner than anyone expected.

“It’s just not working. Our heart and soul has gone into this,” Sethi said.

With rising costs and building insurance renewal due at the end of February, the building will be boarded up at that time, Sethi said.

“It will be torn down,” he said, “and right now we’re sorting that out, the timing. We want to make sure we do it in a good fashion, go out with a big bang and then start a new era, as such, of the Flamingo property, and we already have estimates and quotations for hazmat and demolition, and we’re processing that now. It won’t be boarded up for too long, if it is, because we don’t want to have an empty building. All that’s going to do is invite crime to the area, right.”

Under new management, the new-look Flamingo celebrated it first anniversary this month.

Some live-music bars in Vancouver have experienced a similar fate as the Flamingo, venue operators say in the Facebook post.

“We thought we were safe,” the post says. “We were wrong, and as a result another live music venue bites the dust.

“The dust won’t settle until after our last event on February 23rd. There will be more details for those that wish to participate and play in that show. In the interim, if you would like to have a show before February 23rd , contact us. We are operational until that time.

“We want to thank all of the promoters we have worked with and individual artists that had shows at the Flamingo.”

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

“Right now,” Sethi said, “Dave (Geertz) is trying to hustle up as many shows as he can, and we have a number of them over the next few weeks. It’s almost a celebration, because the building was built in the 1950s, that time, and it’s seen all the good, bad and the ugly.

“You know the history,” Sethi added. “A lot of family stuff used to go on there, and then the strip joint and some bad things, then we took over and cleaned the place up, and there are some drug and homelessness issues in the area. This most recent plan, over the past year, we knew we weren’t going to make money on that, and we can’t even cover our taxes and building insurance, none of that, so I’ve been paying out of my pocket. It is what it is.”

Sethi, who has been building condominium projects in Whalley since 2005, said once the Flamingo property is levelled, construction of the residential project could start within a year.

“We’ve already started the groundwork, the final stuff with the city, and that takes time as well,” he said.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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