Bridge Tavern gone but not forgotten

There she goes… Like a big claw, the excavator brings down the facade of the old Bridge Tavern. Cathy Dobson

Vanessa Hrvatin and Cathy Dobson

Special to The Journal

 

Point Edward’s mayor says the historic Bridge Tavern had to go in order to make way for progress.

But it still felt like a loss for many who watched in the sweltering heat as the old building was demolished, leaving a prime piece of commercial real estate vacant on Michigan Avenue.

They swapped stories while the landmark was slowly reduced to rubble Aug. 10.

Many had fond memories of the best fish and chips in town and, an important social hub and a popular hot spot for dancing.

“I used to go in there with my parents in the 1970s, we’d listen to Big Kenny and I’d dance with my dad,” said Mayor Bev Hand. “It was a happening place back then.”

The building served many purposes over time, ranging from a supermarket in the 1800s to a pool hall and drug store in the 1930s. By the 1950s it was the Bridge Tavern restaurant, most recently owned by the Brodimas family who took it over in 1978.

“People are saying it’s a shame it had to come down but it was a decision that had to be made,” said Hand. “It’s unsafe and it’s an eyesore.”

The Brodimases officially shut down the restaurant on June 30. A few weeks later Point Edward officials responded to a false fire alarm at the building and serious safety concerns were immediately apparent, according to Kelly Bedard, property standards/bylaw enforcement officer with the County of Lambton.

“There was water damage from years of the roof leaking and just a huge lack of maintenance in general, including compromised supporting beams in the basement,” she said.

The resulting order said the building must either be repaired or remediated, but Bedard said the owners chose to do nothing. They didn’t comply with the order nor did they appeal it.

“In this type of circumstance the decision is put back in our hands to decide how to proceed,” she said. “Due to the severity of the damage and the work that would be required to restore the building, the village chose to demolish it.”

Initially the cost of the demolition falls to the village, but the owners will be sent an invoice. If they fail to pay, the amount will be added to the property tax bill. Bedard estimated the demolition cost will be less than $100,000—significantly less than what it would cost to renovate the building.

“You’d need a fortune to restore it and no one is going to put that kind of money into it,” said Hand. “Council feels that the best chance for redevelopment is a vacant lot.”

Before the teardown began, demolition crews went through the building to remove any valuables, including dishes found in the basement, which were donated to the Inn of the Good Shepherd.

Despite the loss of a landmark, Hand is optimistic that a developer will be drawn to the vacant lot because of its prime waterfront location. “We are sad to see the Bridge Tavern go but we are excited about the future and thinking about all the wonderful things that could possibly be developed in this lot,” she said.