In the summer/fall of 2015, rumors were swirling around town that the Osborne Village Inn had been sold and that The Zoo and Ozzy's could both be closed permanently.
The inn had indeed been sold, but further discussion here would just be duplicating what you will read in the below article that appeared in The Winnipeg Sun on Friday, October 30, 2015.
At the time we write this, the hotel is closed and is undergoing the renovations David Green speaks of below. The last band to play The Zoo was Dreadnaut on Saturday, October 31, 2015. The last band to play at Ozzy's was Psychotic Gardening on Saturday, December 12, 2015 (pics of that gig on our page on that band), and the last gig at Ozzy's were the DJs who played there on New Year's Eve. Check out the pics below that relate to all of this.
What happens now? Is this site done? Is it now just a nostalgia site? How will it relate to whatever the new owners are doing? We'll all just have to wait and see.
Here is that article from The Winnipeg Sun, reprinted here:
Goodbye To The Zoo And All The Animals Who Inhabited It Winnipeg Sun, Friday, October 30, 2015
This weekend, raise a toast, or your fist in the air, or the devil horns, or even your middle finger, as The Zoo goes dark for the final time.
The Osborne Village bar that was long "Winnipeg's centre of rock and roll" will close its doors for good following the Night of the Living Dread 10th anniversary show from locals nu-metal outfit Dreadnaut on Halloween night.
Owned by the Green family since they bought the Osborne Village Inn in 1980, The Zoo and its basement sister club Ozzy's have inspired the gamut of reaction over the years. They may not have been the grotty bars that Winnipeg wanted, but no less an authority than longtime radio DJ Howard Mandshein argues they're the ones the city needed.
"The raw decadence we associate with down and dirty rock and roll has to survive," Mandshein said. "Everybody at a different time in their life became seduced by that venue ...The place touched an emotion and I'm not sure we'll see the likes of it again."
The music rooms in the historic hotel, which opened as Champs Motor Inn in the early 1960s, held to its embrace of the low arts such as the urban ballet and pro wrestling, and recently courted controversy by providing refuge to stoner rock group Black Pussy after the Pyramid cast them aside. Hushed tales and winking asides hint at the hedonism seen within over the decades.
"It was definitely a playground for a lot of years. It's had all the sex, drugs and rock and roll you could ever want in Winnipeg," Charles Garinger, who played bass in '90s faves Ballroom Zombies and later The Harlots, recalled.
There are those who find it disgusting and dangerous for the very same reasons its' regular patrons have called it home for all these years. The music was abrasive, with the decor and its clientele of "rockers, punkers, bikers and babes" all looking the part.
"The place isn't really fancy and that's what a lot of people like about it. That it's comfortable," co-owner David Green said.
And comfortable is how Green describes the business end of things, despite declining revenues in recent years. Smaller, hipper venues with less overhead sprouted up, cutting into a smaller pool of money people spent to go see live music, or even out to nightclubs, these days. The casinos started picking off some of the Zoo's usual big acts. Home entertainment occupied a bigger spot in people's lives.
The central character in the Village's nightclub scene somehow became more of a bit player.
And while its stages have hosted everyone from DOA and Johnny Winter to the Tragically Hip and Nickleback over the years, the biggest loss will be to up-and-coming bands looking for the bridge between rehearsing in their rooms or garages to playing in public, all three men agree.
"Bands need a place to be bad before they're good," as Mandshein puts it, and with the loss of the clubs goes a big supporter in a local scene that needs more than denim and leather to keep it all together.
"The music community, it's like family," Green, known to many as Uncle Dave, said. "The ones close to me, they understand the nights I've put in and the sacrifices I've made. They're really happy for me. I've definitely supported the Winnipeg music scene better than any other venue in town.
"This has been a home for 35 years. I've met some wonderful people and excellent bands. I'm going to be sad to see it go. I've got a lot of wonderful memories and I'm proud to be part of the music scene. It really meant a lot, to my whole family."
Garinger, who now owns the Hive Hair Company salon across the street from the hotel, feels the loss of the venues will be felt by the community as a whole.
"The Village has changed a lot. That's the bottom line. A lot of the character is gone and the rents are really high," he argued, comparing it to the tech-heads from Silicon Valley flooding into San Francisco.
"All those guys move in there and the people who made it cool can't live there anymore because it's too expensive."
Redevelopment at the Osborne Village Inn could include a luxury hotel, some condominiums, a restaurant/lounge, and possibly some retail space.
And, of course, a beer vendor.
"My understanding is they're incorporating the vendor into the building," co-owner David Green said. "The village needs a vendor because it's so densely populated." Green made the revelation while discussing the closure of the hotel's celebrated rock room, The Zoo. A last hurrah will go up early Sunday morning after a final slate of bands closes out 35 years of live music. The Osborne Village Cafe and basement club Ozzy's will remain open until at least the end of November while the new ownership group gets its papers in order, Green said.
Green, his brothers Coleman, Chuck, and Rick, and father Ernest purchased the hotel from the Kives family in 1980. News of the sale became public in August, with plenty of speculation on its future.
"This building is going to be renovated, not torn down, and it's not going to be turned into condos," Green said. "I'm sure there'll be a restaurant or bar, but I'm not sure what genre it will be. From what I can tell, it seems like they're putting in a lot of money with some very exciting ideas."
Green said the group includes local and out-of-town interests who aren't willing to come forward at this time. While Green noted he hasn't been told the plans, he did say the family turned down a number of offers they didn't see as the "right fit" before eventually agreeing to sell.
The group was to take over the 32-room hotel, bars, cafe, vendor and a pair of parking lots at the end of September, but that was pushed back until the end of this month and now isn't expected to happen until Dec. 1 at the earliest. Green said he wasn't worried about the delays and described the group as "very serious."
While the club wasn't pulling in numbers anything like in its heyday, Green said the family didn't have designs on selling. He said they were approached with an offer they considered which ultimately fell through. That opened the door to a slate of offers which eventually meant closing a chapter of the city's history.
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