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What’s next for Lake Okanagan Resort?

Lake Okanagan Resort.

Operators of the only beach bar on Okanagan Lake broke their lease and walked away in frustration and warn those who come next to do their homework.

Ryan Hargreaves and Andrew Jacek took over food services at Okanagan Lake Resort in the summer of 2020 with a 10-year contract, opened a Tiki bar on the beach and hosted about 45 weddings last summer.

Now, they’ve broken their lease and walked away.

“I did put a lot of time and energy to make it a cool place,” Hargreaves told iNFOnews.ca. “I just couldn’t get it there the way I wanted to with those people (resort owners) in the way.”

The Tiki bar, on its own, is now for lease at $10,000 per month from May 1 through Sept. 30.

READ MORE: Unique Okanagan lakefront bar is up for lease

But that’s not where the money is made.

“The Tiki bar was great if it was sunny on a Saturday but there are only so many sunny days and so many weekends,” Hargreaves said, noting that no one showed up at the bar until the last weekend in June or after the Labour Day weekend.

Where he made the money was at the main banquet hall, above the beach, where weddings with 80 to 150 people were regular features – many of whom stayed at least one night at the resort.

But that hall flooded twice in the past two years and, Hargreaves said, the resort could not get insurance for it, meaning he could not get cancellation insurance for his events.

“The building is super old,” he said. “It kept flooding. There’s mould growing in the ballroom so we essentially could not do weddings there. They didn’t have insurance so they just put a Band Aid on it. They hired a company to suck up the water that was everywhere and they put these big fans on it. Well, the walls and everything else in it didn’t get properly dealt with so you find there are mushrooms growing up in the corners of the walls. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s black mould in there for how many times that building has been flooded.”

That has all been cleaned up now, according to Kevin Chu.

He’s been working for the resort owners, DHI Holdings, for the past five months and posted the Facebook ad to lease the Tiki bar.

“What’s happening now is new staff have come in,” Chu told iNFOnews.ca. “We’re trying our best to address a lot of issues. We do not deny the problems we have right now.”

He says the smell and mould were due to food left behind in one of the fridges. That has now been cleaned up and there’s just some “detailing” left to do.

The owners do have insurance on the resort but commercial insurance for the kitchen and banquet hall is not their responsibility, Chu said.

There is an option for someone taking over the Tiki bar to also rent kitchen and dining room space to provide a food service, he said.

“We’re trying to clean up all the rental spaces so we can bring Lake Okanagan Resort – one of the oldest traditional resorts in Kelowna – back to its original glory days,” Chu said.

That’s what Constantine Nip, who was hired Jan. 1, 2022 as general manager, told iNFOnews.ca last spring.

“We have seen the glorious days of Lake Okanagan Resort,” he said. “I’m being tasked to do everything to get this place, not only functional, but back to its glory days.”

READ MORE: Trying to make Lake Okanagan Resort exciting again

Those "glory days" included a visit by the British Commonwealth leaders in 1987.

Nip is no longer employed there. According to Hargreaves, Nip was one of six general managers at the resort in the past three years.

“That was very difficult to work with because every time they bring in somebody new, that person tries to rewrite the book of Lake Okanagan Resort,” Hargreaves said. “It’s crazy. This is a testament to how they treat their people if they’re going through six general managers in three years in a seasonal business. That’s not good.”

A flooded banquet hall was not the only reason for pulling out.

Last summer, Hargreaves got approval to expand seating at the Tiki bar from 85 to 250 people but there were strings attached that he didn’t realize at first.

Those included needing to fence the entire area and having five security guards on site at all times.

“It was very expensive and hard to get staff in the Okanagan in the summer,” he said. “We decided to keep it as an 85-person bar. The problem with that was, the whole rest of the beach was open for anyone. So you’re going to have so many more problems with that being the case, where people just pull up a cooler beside the bar and start drinking on the beach. I didn’t want to deal with that part of it.”

There were also some unsavory characters going to the resort and squads of police cars showing up at times.

“I felt it was too much hassle and work and too many problems,” Hargreaves said. “This beach thing, it was super fun. But, once things get popular here, things can go awry pretty quick.”

Another complicating factor is the ownership structure. While DHI Holdings owns the resort itself, there are four strata councils on site, a number of owners of individual homes and different operators for the marina.

“There’s all these different people with their hands in the pot and it creates a whole bunch of problems within that place,” Hargreaves said. "The group that owns the land are awful people to deal with. They are horrible business people and it was always a struggle trying to work with them.”

He's concerned for anyone who takes on a lease for the Tiki bar if they don’t know the background.

“It’s pretty much doomed, in my mind,” he said. “I would feel bad for someone taking that over and not knowing what I know and all the crap behind it. It’s a lost battle. Somebody’s going to have to buy that whole entire property, knock it down and build a proper resort if they are going to go that way again.”

READ MORE: Lake Okanagan Resort: Rapid decay and glory days

Chu says there’s a lot of interest in leasing one of the few waterfront bars in B.C.

“I have received messages from many, many people,” he said. “Some have been running bars in other provinces and some of them are thinking of relocating to Kelowna. I do have a lot of professional business owners who are interested in it because they do see the value of the off-water liquor licence and they do see the value of Kelowna’s tourism resort.”

As for Hargreaves, he bought the general store and liquor store at LaCasa, further north on the Westside, about a year ago and is very happy there.

“It’s a good strata, great community, super fun and super laid back,” he said.

Jacek has his own catering business.

“It worked out to get us to where we’re at now,” Hargreaves said. “It was so much fun. I met so many great people out there. It was kind of a dream for awhile.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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