New owner hopes to tap into ‘nucleus of growth’ in West Broadway by revitalizing long-standing Sherbrook Inn

A new owner has taken possession of a long-standing hotel in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood that’s been closed for months, and says he has plans to “rehabilitate” it.

Neil Soorsma took possession of the Sherbrook Inn, at the corner of Sherbrook Street and Westminster Avenue, in mid-May.

The hotel, which has been a fixture in the central Winnipeg neighbourhood for decades, closed earlier this year. Soorsma said he plans to fix up the hotel’s rooms as well as its bar, including making more room for dancing.

Soorsma, who also owns the Royal Albert Hotel — another core area hotel and bar with a storied history — said he went into the Sherbrook Inn purchase expecting the worst, but was surprised by how structurally sound the building still is.

“Aside from decorating and superficial stuff, it’s basically a pretty darn solid building,” Soorsma told CBC in a Tuesday interview.

Soorsma thinks the hotel’s closure earlier this year was because “the previous owners were just worn out.”

“They’d owned if for … 40 years or so,” he said. “I think that they just lost interest. I don’t think, you know, that there’s anything nefarious or anything.”

He’d previously eyed the hotel when “it was for sale some time ago, but at a much higher price, and I didn’t see the economics of it [then],” he said.

But “the price and my interest met at some point, and now I own it,” said Soorsma. He didn’t disclose the purchase price.

A Sherbrook Inn sign hangs above a metal doorway.
The Sherbrook Inn closed earlier this year. The hotel’s new owner, Neil Soorsma, plans to upgrade the rooms and see it become a full-service hotel again, he said in an interview on Tuesday. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The hotel was constructed in 1965, according to the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation. When it closed this past winter, it had a bar and a beer vendor, in addition to its suites.

It was also previously home to the Tallest Poppy restaurant, which shut its dining room in May 2023. That space is now occupied by Fiddler’s Green, a cannabis shop that opened its Sherbrook location in January. The neighbouring Deno’s Pawn shop remains open.

No plans to evict residents: owner

The building has a total of 33 units, about 20 of which are currently occupied, Soorsma said. He said he has no intention of kicking people out because “it’s just not right to treat people that way.”

“I definitely would like to encourage it being a full-service hotel again, but at the same time there’s a real demand right now in the city for housing for people, especially low-income housing, and if we can fill that void for some time, then so be it,” he said. 

Soorsma said he wants the hotel to be a safe and comfortable place for people to stay, adding that he’s had discussions with the owner of another live music venue about renting the space and running the bar, he said. 

A sign on the building’s front door said the beer vendor is temporarily closed but it is scheduled to reopen by July 25. 

The first step is to “rehabilitate” the hotel’s rooms, said Soorsma, and he expects people will start seeing physical changes to the building “pretty quickly.” Painters started working last week to refresh the hotel, he said.

He also wants to close off the back doors, which led to the beer vendor and bar, and open up the front doors on Sherbrook Street to “increase visibility.”

A brown brick building with 15 windows and a sign that reads, "Sherbrook Inn" above the front entrance.
Neil Soorsma says he wants to close the back door to the Sherbrook Inn, seen here, and open it up from the front. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Soorsma acknowledged the hotel has developed a bad reputation. It was mostly recently in the news when the body of a trucker was found on Dec. 26, 2023, in an apartment block on Furby Street, near the hotel. His truck was found in the parking lot of the Sherbrook Inn.

But Soorsma thinks he can turn the hotel’s image around.

“I’m confident we can,” he said. He said the Royal Albert also has developed a bad reputation, “and I think we’ve settled that down. And I don’t see a problem here. It’s, in my mind, an upcoming area.”

A white paper taped to a door reads, "vendor is temporarily closed. We hope to re-open by July 25."
A sign on the front door of the beer vendor and bar at the Sherbrook Inn says it will open on July 25. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Soorsma said he’s owned property in the West Broadway area since 1991. He’s lived there before and still owns a residence in the neighbourhood, he said.

He’s confident he can be part of the area’s revitalization, he said.

“There’s a real nucleus of growth in the area and we’re hoping to tap into that and be part of fuelling it,” Soorsma said. 

“I enjoy this. It’s something I seem to be tuned into.”