Ranchman's, Calgary's iconic honky-tonk, closes after close to 50 years
CALGARY -- Anyone looking to lease an iconic Calgary honky-tonk?
If you have a couple decades of experience running a large room that's licensed as a restaurant, but seats 830 (inside) and 430 (outside), and has a room filled with close to five decades of cowboy memories, this could be your lucky day.
That's because Ranchman's Cookhouse and Dancehall, a fixture since 1972 on Macleod Trail, has shut down.
According to realtor Rob Campbell, the club is the latest victim of what he describes as a 'perfect storm' to hit Calgary's - and the world's - hospitality industry: a pandemic on top of a half-decade long oil shock that has emptied out the wallets of Albertans.
"The final nail in the coffin was COVID," said Campbell in an interview with CTV News. "We couldn't get past it."
Campbell is looking for someone to take over the lease, with the hope of keeping the restaurant running, even if it can't be called Ranchman's anymore.
There's too many Alberta rodeo memories to knock it over with a bulldozer, he says.
"Over the last 40 years, this has been the hub for rodeo in Alberta and Canada," Campbell said. The club got in the habit of showcasing rodeo champions' saddles and other western gear inside, in exchange for a bar tab, and priority entrance - not to mention bragging rights.
Because not every old cowboy could say their stuff was on display inside Ranchman's.
"It's nice to have your stuff on the wall," Campbell said.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the bailiffs seized the property in lieu of some bank debt, and despite the best efforts of everyone involved to explain that the gear was more exhibition than restaurant asset, the bailiffs took all the saddles too.
Campbell hopes that in the end, the bank's better angels will see the light of day and return the seized gear to its cowboy owners - because after all, BMO is a major Stampede sponsor, and for for the best part of five decades, you couldn't go Stampeding without detouring to Ranchman's.
"Hopefully the bank will see the light," Campbell said. "These are foundational families in the province, and they're going to have to fight to get their stuff back."
In the meantime, he's looking for around $18.50 a square foot for just over 17,000 square feet of Macleod Trail.
"It's a big building," he said.
Campbell said that despite the sour state of the hospitality industry, he's had a lot of interest, including some potential buyers.
He just hopes it's the right kind of operator, because a lot of Calgarians have an emotional investment in Ranchman's.
"Obviously, the city and the population would love to see this thing stay," he said. "There's people who met here and got married. Had kids.
"This is the beginning of their story," he added. "Personally, I'd hate to see it go, so I'm hoping we'll be able to to see someone come to the table and we'll be able to strike some kind of a deal to carry it on.
"We may have to come up with a different moniker," he said, "But no matter what you call it, it will always be The Ranch."
With files from Timm Bruch