Sylvan eateries close

Sylvan Lake has lost a couple of its lakefront restaurants, and the man behind them thinks the closures reflect bigger problems in the town’s downtown.

Sylvan Lake has lost a couple of its lakefront restaurants, and the man behind them thinks the closures reflect bigger problems in the town’s downtown.

Smuggler’s Inn ceased operations Sunday evening, about a month after Ricardo’s Ristorante — which shared the building at 5000 Lakeshore Dr. with Smuggler’s — suffered the same fate.

“I should have done it two years ago,” said Bert Messier, whose company Bear Development Corp. owned the restaurants.

“I kept on monitoring it and hoping that things would improve.”

The Smuggler’s name and concept were licensed from a longtime restaurant with the same name in Calgary. When the Sylvan Lake Smuggler’s opened in 2005, it occupied both floors of the 3,000-square-foot building that overlooks the lake. But its footprint was later reduced to just the second floor, with Ricardo’s taking over the main level a year and a half ago.

Business was good in the summer, said Messier, but dropped off in the fall and sank even further during the winter months. Exacerbating the situation was the relatively few people who work in the downtown and eat lunch there, he added.

The economic downturn in recent years also hurt, said Messier, as did the disruption of traffic along Lakeshore Drive as the area underwent a major makeover.

He also blames commercial growth in places like Ryders Square and Beju Industrial Park for drawing consumers away from the downtown. Messier acknowledged that he contributed to this situation, thanks to his role in developing Hewlett Park Landing — another commercial area away from the lake — a dozen years ago.

Now, he said, the downtown is suffering.

“Everywhere you go you’ve got ‘closed’ signs or ‘for sale’ signs.”

He said he’s aware of at least one other restaurant owner who’s struggling to stay in business.

Messier wants to sell his building, but might lease it out if the conditions were right. He said he’s had interest from someone who is considering a non-restaurant use of the premises.

Ken Sumner, who is president of the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the downtown faces challenges. But he’s optimistic these will be overcome, and pointed out that the chamber and town are seeking solutions.

“We’re exploring some stuff on downtown revitalization.”

Sumner added that many other communities face similar problems in their downtowns. Sylvan Lake has the advantages of being located on a popular lake and having a rapidly growing population, he noted.

Matthew Cornall, Sylvan Lake’s economic development officer, also sees reasons to be positive. Among these are plans to convert Cobb’s AG Foods — which closed earlier this year after decades of operation downtown — into an upscale shopping centre.

“That redevelopment is really key, as would be the new (proposed) arena development.”

Sumner agreed that the Cobb’s project is very encouraging.

Cornall said local retailers have been dealing with a challenging economy, and the town’s growth has prompted changes — such as the arrival of box stores. New residential subdivisions also don’t have the same geographic link to the downtown as do older neighbourhoods, he added.

“We are aware of the challenges, and it’s something that obviously we’re spending a lot of time trying to help (downtown businesses) with.”

A greater downtown revitalization project is currently underway, with a related workshop scheduled for Nov. 20, said Cornall. But, he added, the town must also be attentive to the needs of retailers throughout the community, not just those in the downtown core.

Messier thinks one solution would be to add a feature to the downtown that would make it a year-round destination: a casino.

“You need something that will draw the people.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Man causes mischief with axe in Ponoka

Arson and attempted break and enter charges laid

Red Deer RCMP look for fraud suspect

Red Deer RCMP are looking for public assistance to identify a fraud… Continue reading

Blood donations needed in Central Alberta: Canadian Blood Services

357 donors are needed before Aug. 26 at the Red Deer clinic

WATCH: Red Deer man shaves beard for Mustard Seed

‘I have spent 30 years of my life being addicted to both alcohol and drugs’

Calgary Fire Department logs record opioid overdose calls in July

CALGARY — The Calgary Fire Department says there were a record number… Continue reading

RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say Kinder Morgan protest camp to be dismantled

BURNABY, B.C. — The RCMP arrested protesters when officers enforced a court… Continue reading

Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

NEW YORK — If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may… Continue reading

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

DETROIT — Aretha Franklin, the long-reigning “Queen of Soul” who sang with… Continue reading

Italy says death toll will mount in Genoa bridge collapse

GENOA, Italy — The death toll from the collapse of a highway… Continue reading

US newspapers to Trump: We’re not enemies of the people

NEW YORK — Newspapers from Maine to Hawaii pushed back against President… Continue reading

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid accused of giving award to purveyor of anti-Semitism

OTTAWA — A Liberal MP is under fire for presenting a ”certificate… Continue reading

Ottawa intervenes to get 13-year-old ball player to Little League World Series

OTTAWA — Thirteen-year-old Dio Gama will get to play baseball in the… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month