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Longriders Saloon and Bellinis Sonic Lounge demolished for new event centre

A number of former nightclub staff came to watch as Longriders and Bellinis torn down

A small crowd gathered and watched as Longriders Saloon and Bellinis Sonic Lounge were pulled down on Monday to make way for a new event centre for Red Deer Resort and Casino.

Ivy Leonard and her friend Justine Balesdent brought lawn chairs to watch the last moments of the nightclubs where they once worked that were shut permanently last January.

“Heartbroken” was how Leonard described her feelings as she watched the destruction.

“This was my home. I learned how to be myself here. We were all family. The employees were amazing. It’s really sad to watch.”

Some of those watching had worked there for 20 years, said Leonard, who had worked there about a year.

“But in that year we became family.”

Many in Red Deer are going to miss the bars that were such popular gathering places for many years. Before being renamed Longriders, Billy Bob’s was a well-known gathering place that was often packed on Friday and Saturday nights.

Balesdent will miss the nightclubs, but added philosophically “that all things must come to an end.

“I’m sad, but we’re still a family even though this place is no longer there.”

Red Deer Resort and Casino posted a farewell message to the bars on its Facebook page.

“These two iconic bars have been a cherished part of Red Deer’s community, filled with laughter, memories, and connections that will be treasured forever.

“To the former employees of these beloved bars, your passion and commitment will always be remembered. Thank you for making these places so special.”

The two nightclubs were located in the renamed Red Deer Resort and Casino (formerly the Cambridge Hotel and Capri Centre.) The property is now owned by O’Chiese Hospitality Limited. Partnership.

The hotel owners plan to demolish the clubs to make way for a new two-storey event centre to replace the existing centre, which is being converted into a new home for the downtown Jackpot Casino.

A floor plan provided to the city shows that the 33,000-square-foot casino will have nearly 550 gaming and bar and lounge seats for customers enjoying hundreds of slots and VLTs or trying their luck at numerous gaming tables. A VIP area, high-stakes poker room and commercial kitchen are also proposed. A GameSense Info Centre, interactive kiosks to help people learn the ins and outs of gambling are also included.

The O’Chiese Business and Investment Centre was established in 2009 to support local entrepreneurs and create new opportunities to provide a higher standard of living, and a greater sense of self-reliance and self-sufficiency for the First Nations community.

The O’Chiese Business and Investment Centre purchased the hotel property in 2020 to diversify its businesses and investments.

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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