The news out of Oak Bay today, that our local gem, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is now in receivership, is sad news indeed. I love the hotel, the staff and all the wonderful events and activities that make it one of the community’s premier destinations. Kevin and Shawna Walker and their management team have poured a lot of heart and soul into this hotel, a site that is iconic in Oak Bay and an award-winning hotel that is a symbol of elegance and good taste and ranks among the top 10 hotels in Canada, if not North America. Crushing debt of about $125M owed to creditors prompted the move to receivership that will see the Walkers lose control of the hotel and accounting firm Ernst and Young assume responsibility for its operation and potential sale to a new owner.
The future of the municipality’s coffers is also inextricably tied in part to the future of the OBBH. Oak Bay gets annual tax revenue of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the OBBH, derived from property and hotel room taxes so the Walker’s loss could also be shared by the community and the municipality.
There are many factors that appear to have contributed to this financial failure, not the least of which I understand were many delays related to original design and other building issues before and during construction. By the time the Walkers could start building, the 2008 economic crisis was in full swing and their completion date had to be moved ahead, from 2009 to 2012.
I attended the opening in 2012, a happy day for the Walker family and for Oak Bay. The fulfillment of their dream opened with much fanfare and promise, simply to make the OBBH one of the best in North America — they achieved this goal in spades. Despite ongoing financial challenges, the hotel put Oak Bay on the map, bringing people from all over the world to stay and to experience the hotel’s special charm and surroundings.
I hope that somehow, amidst the current financial turmoil, the Walkers and those that support and share their dream, will once again set sail for calmer seas, their hands firmly gripping the tiller and the wind at their backs. I wish them all the best.