The owner of the Red Coach Inn said he intends to start renovations next spring on the historic hotel.
Joseph Carhoun told the Free Press Thursday that he plans to spend between $300,000 and $500,000 next year to upgrade the 50-room hotel, which has fallen into unsightly disrepair.
“We’re going to get it up and running, the pool and everything,” Carhoun said, adding he plans to replace the flooring and bathrooms, redo the restaurant and upgrade the exterior. “We’re going to redo quite a bit of stuff.”
The move comes as the District of 100 Mile House continues to investigate what can be done to address the unsightly premises. Several residents have lamented on social media about the destruction of the one-time “jewel” of 100 Mile House, which was originally owned by the faith-based Emissaries of Divine Light before they sold it in 2005. The listing price was $1.5 million.
With its peeling and fading paint and dishevelled interior, the 56-year-old hotel is a shadow of its former self. Its most recent rating on TripAdvisor, in 2019, showed it had plummeted to “poor,” or below two stars. It had once been a five-star facility.
Former general manager Peter Bono, who worked at the Red Coach for 32 years, said he finds it hard to believe Carhoun would proceed with the renovations. When he was last in the hotel in 2007, Bono said “the rooms were a shambles and the whole area was decrepit” and the return on the amount it would need to fix the property would take years.
He also questioned whether there is a need for a hotel and restaurant in 100 Mile, noting people don’t always stay and eat at one place as they once did. The situation may also be compounded by the decline of the lumber industry and mill shutdowns, he added, while there have been several changes in terms of the Building Code since 1965.
“I don’t know if the traffic up and down that highway is the same as it used to be,” he said, noting a comprehensive survey would have to be done to see if the project was even viable. “A whole lot has changed. The renovations would need to be major.”
Isabel Jones, whose entire family worked at the hotel said she hopes it can be restored to at least some of its former glory. Her mother was a housekeeper at the hotel, while her brother was a dishwasher and she and her two sisters were waitresses. Her other brother worked in the Esso station next door, while her husband Don became a bartender at the Library Lounge.
”The service was five-star,” Jones said. “It was quite a thing when Lord Martin Cecil came in with his family. It was nerve-wracking trying to serve them because they had taught us to be top-notch.
“It’s absolutely depressing to see what it was and to see it like this. My mom and I go ‘oh my God, somebody do something about this.’ It really hits us hard. It’s an eyesore for our community. It’s terrible for our village for something sitting there rotting.
“I wouldn’t put my head on a pillow in there today.”
The district said it has legislative tools to address the issue, but noted this takes time. The process has already been ongoing for two years. District staff and the mayor declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Carhoun said he had planned to do renovations last year but was hit with a double whammy when COVID-19 hit and the restaurant manager left, making it “impossible to get a good tenant at that time.”
He said there was no point in spending money on the property when they didn’t have a restaurant and tourism was in a downturn. He added he would like to open the hotel next summer and has started to reach out to an agent to find someone locally who can run the restaurant.
“Restaurants have been really hurting in B.C. There’s a lot of trouble right now,” he said. “100 Mile is fairly secure, with the highway going through it. We’re the only ones that provide full service – the ones up the road only provide rooms. I look forward to opening.”
Coun. Maureen Pinkney declined to comment on the issue as a councillor but said she personally hoped the hotel could be restored.
“I’m extremely saddened that an owner of a property, any property, would not maintain a building, especially one with such a magnitude of history for 100 Mile House,” she said. “This building is on the main strip of town and seen by every visitor, potential new resident, or potential new business. From the rooms to the restaurant, to the pool, 100 Mile does not have enough facilities, let alone to see one literally falling apart in front of our eyes.
“We can only hope that the current owner starts to care or a new one comes along to straighten things out and bring it back to its glory, whether that be a hotel again or maybe the perfect place for a seniors’ living centre … with a therapy pool.”
Jones agreed. “I sure would like it if something was done with it because it was just a wonderful place. It was like one big family in there,” she said. “There’s a lot of cherished memories.”
Bono said his time at the hotel was “extra special.
“The inn in its day was extra special too. The inn, with cross-country skiing helped put 100 Mile on the map.”
This isn’t the first time Carhoun has been criticized for letting a popular attraction run down. In 2011, he was taken to task by the Village of Cache Creek for the “unsightly nature” of the Oasis Hotel, after receiving complaints of an accumulation of litter and broken glass in a highly visible area of the community, and public safety concerns regarding the broken glass and the material falling from the cantilevered area over the sidewalk. Some work has since been done on that hotel.
This story was updated to include comments from former general manager Peter Bono.