Property developer Charan Sethi sits in a bar at Whalley’s Flamingo Hotel on Wednesday. The building, opened in 1955, will soon be demolished to make way for new homes. (Photos: Tom Zytaruk)

Buy-buy Byrdie: A blowout sale this weekend at Surrey’s Flamingo Hotel

Whalley’s storied Flamingo Hotel, at 10768 King George Blvd., will very soon be gone

You, too, can own a piece of the Byrd.

Better hurry though, before it has all flown the coop.

Whalley’s storied Flamingo Hotel, at 10768 King George Blvd., will very soon be gone, demolished to make way for a major residential project consisting in three towers, some smaller buildings and park space on 4.3 acres.

The property runs north from 107A Avenue to the hotel’s north side and from Whalley Boulevard eastward to the George. On Feb. 11, city council gave the project fourth and final reading.

This coming weekend, for a donation that will go to Flamingo Square Arts Society, there are wooden beams, wagon-wheel chandeliers, cocktail tables, chairs, pool tables, stage lights – you name it – to be had.

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“It’s all by donation. All the proceeds are going to be going to the arts and culture and I’m sure people will donate handsomely,” land developer Charan Sethi, of Tien Sher, said Wednesday. “Whatever they pay, we’ll give it to the arts and cultural society here.”

“Everybody wants a piece of it,” Sethi said of the Surrey landmark, which closed for good following a “Last Stand” multi-band concert there on Saturday night (Feb. 23).

“All the power, everything will be cut off this Sunday (March 3) and on Monday a hazmat team will start stripping it inside-out. We only have until Sunday to take whatever we can out of here and then move it along.

“The hazmat is going to probably take about two months in here – it’s a big building, it’s not a small building. The building can be knocked down in about two weeks. I would say within three months it will be all gone.”

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Was this the last beer ever poured at the Byrd? (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

The hotel, with its loud, pink “Live Nude Girls” sign, was home to one of the Lower Mainland’s last stripper bars. The Byrd pub, with its stage and brass poles, was set up in the 1970s but the hotel itself had a much more wholesome beginning 60 years ago.

The Flamingo opened in July 1955 as a motor hotel with 20 rooms, cost $275,000 to build, and featured a drive-through leading to ample parking out back.

Sethi says the entire Flamingo Block project destined to replace it will include close to 1,900 homes for 3,700 people.

Shara Nixon, director of Flamingo Square Arts Society, said her group aims to “revitalize” the arts in the Whalley district.

“We have a number of projects that we’re working on right now,” she said. One is focusing on stories out of the Round-Up Cafe, which has been fixing dinners since the 1940s. Some proceeds could go to a book on that, Nixon said. The society is also developing a photography project featuring people who live, work and play in Whalley. “The idea is to show the good side of what happens in this community.”

Nixon encourages people who are interested in picking up some Flamingo memorabilia to check out the items up for grabs by searching “Flamingo Hotel Blow Out Sale” on the marketplace tab on Facebook, and to call her at 778-245-2334 for an on-site viewing. “It’s not like a garage sale – we can’t have people just walking through,” for safety reasons, she said.

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“The sentimental value — I’ve had a huge response for the funniest things,” Nixon said. “It’s hard to believe, but there’s a lot of warm, fuzzy memories around the Flamingo Hotel. That was where I got my very first job, when I was 18. My first cocktail job was at Panchos – it wasn’t called Panchos, it was the disco era then. Of course it was gorgeous inside, all shiny and brass and disco lights. That was the place where people went to have fun; it was the centre of fun.

“It was quite the scene in the day,” she said. “It was the place to see and be seen. It’s hard to believe when you look at it now, but that was the happening place.”

“The other reason people want some of these things was they were made in an era when things were built to last,” she said. “If you pick up one of those tables, that is a solid table that has serviced – I mean, do the math – how many people have sat and had a drink at that table and that thing is still completely solid. It was also designed so you couldn’t pick them up and throw them at anyone.”

Some old tricycles are also to be had. “I was there when they did midget racing on the tricycles. I mean now, that’s just horrifying to even think about but in those days the same midgets that wrestled at the Dell used to come down and do tricycle racing.”

In 1985, the Byrd gained international notoriety after staging a dwarf-tossing contest. Sethi said they still have “eight or 10” of those tricycles. “They’ll be saved.”

If you want that big Flamingo sign on the roof of the hotel, you’re out of luck.

“The Surrey Museum wants it,” Sethi explained. “It might be safer in their hands than in mine.”

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tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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