Special to The Record
From the 1870s to 2011, the Lorne Hotel & Pub was the cornerstone of downtown Comox.
I can still see it now, with its beautiful wrap-around veranda, its welcoming blue-shuttered windows and the row of cedar hedges that hugged the historic building like a protective wall of evergreen.
Within that quaint white and blue building lived 133 years of Comox history, and walls that watched clothing evolve from Victorian bustle gowns and top hats to glittery halter tops and skinny jeans.
The Lorne was Comox.
When it burnt down in the spring of 2011, the community was devastated, just as gutted as the building itself, and for years the lot sat there empty, a sad reminder of what we lost and what would be hard to replace.
So when plans started to come together to rebuild the Lorne and to finally fill that gaping hole with a new Comox cornerstone, the community came to life, buzzing with anticipation over potential development ideas.
When I eagerly opened the first news article I saw on the Lorne Hotel proposal, my heart sunk.
There staring back at me wasn’t a beautiful tribute to the old Lorne Hotel (and Comox’s history) that I had been hoping for – instead there was an artist’s conception of a towering five-storey “mixed-use” building, a building similar to many of the other newer condo developments on Comox Ave, only this one was taller.
I had hoped this development would reflect the community’s respect for what stood on that corner for over 130 years; that maybe there would be at least a few homages to the architecture of the old Lorne Hotel, but no, there is absolutely nothing nostalgic about the ‘new Lorne’ at all.
And another thing is that the new Lorne project has pretty much snuffed out my hopes for any revival of live music in downtown Comox. With four storeys of condo owners living above, I can’t imagine this “pub/bistro” hosting local bands to play late into the night like the old Lorne had, not with residents trying to sleep upstairs.
Comox used to be a great place for live music with the Edgewater Pub and the Lorne, but with both establishments now gone, the live music scene has sorely been missed in downtown Comox. The fact we don’t have a single option for live music in central Comox is actually pretty sad, and I had been hoping the new Lorne’s pub would change that, but I’m starting to doubt that.
It might be too late to change this one project, but all I ask for is that the growing number of young families and professionals – and their interests – are taken into consideration by council and developers when it comes to future ideas and planning.
Consider the potential money this generation of 30 and 40-somethings can put back into the community with the right businesses to lure them. I’m sure some of us will buy one or two of those condos in the new Lorne development, but I can guarantee that even more of us will make the trip to downtown Comox and spend our money there if this pub is a hit.
Sure, Comox might be a bit louder as a result of another pub and (God willing) a live music revival, but it will at least be livelier and more energized by a new nightlife that’s been clearly lacking for the past four years.
If it can’t be done in the new Lorne because of the condos above, then maybe a developer can find a better spot in downtown Comox to build a new live-band pub for all the music lovers out there, young, old, and in between.
The Lorne used to bring people together of all ages and from all walks of life, and if we can’t get the old Lorne back, then maybe we can at least keep its lively spirit going in another form. I think it’s earned that from us.
Katie Maximick is a freelance columnist for the Comox Valley Record