Gastown pub lost in Winters Hotel fire sues city, B.C., hotel, Atira

The Winters Hotel at the southwest corner of Abbott and Water streets was destroyed by fire on April 11, 2022, three days after a smaller fire

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The Flying Pig restaurant in Gastown, one of the businesses destroyed by a deadly fire that started in the Winters Hotel last year, is suing the owner, the non-profit that ran the single-room occupancy residence, the city and B.C. Housing,.

Flying Pig Holdings is alleging the city didn’t have proper fire systems in place and permitted fire code violations in the century-old brick building to remain unresolved “for long periods of time,” the claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court says.

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The company alleges the damage and loss it suffered was the result of the city’s negligence or breach of its legal duty. It said the negligence by the city includes “holding the Winters Hotel to a lower standard of compliance than other buildings in Vancouver.”

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Demolition of the Winters Hotel in Vancouver on April 21, 2022. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

The claim also names as defendants the Winters Residence, the name of the hotel owner, and Atira Property Management, Atira Development Society and Atira Women’s Resource Society, the legal names for the non-profit that ran the Winters Hotel and runs dozens of other low-rent buildings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The claim also names the B.C. Housing Management Commission and Jane Doe Nos. 1 to 3.

The Winters Hotel at the southwest corner of Abbott and Water streets was destroyed by fire on April 11, 2022, three days after a smaller fire.

The bodies of Mary Garlow and Dennis Guay were found later in the rubble. One person jumped to safety, some were hospitalized and pets were killed.

The lawsuit by the Flying Pig is seeking unspecified damages, including the cost of restoring the restaurant.

The fire gutted the building and the remaining structure was demolished, leaving about 70 former residents homeless.

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The residents in April launched a class-action lawsuit, also against Atira and the hotel owner.

Jenn Hansma, who spoke on behalf of fellow residents when that suit was filed, said there were no fire extinguishers or fire alarms on the second floor, where the fire broke out.

The fire department’s final report into the fatal fire found a smaller fire on April 8 had resulted in the automatic sprinkler system being turned off. Because the fire alarm system was not in service, the building was required to post a person 24 hours a day to watch for fire.

The Winters Hotel as seen from 233 Abbott street in Vancouver on April 12, 2022.
The Winters Hotel as seen from 233 Abbott street in Vancouver on April 12, 2022. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

On the morning of April 11, building staff contacted a company to have the sprinklers and smoke detector serviced, the report said. The fatal blaze broke out before the servicing could begin.

Catherine Roome, acting CEO of Atira, said the agency had improved its fire safety prevention programs since the fire by working with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

The fire department declined to comment.

B.C. Housing said it wouldn’t comment on a case that was before the courts.

Land title records shows the sole director of Winters Residence Inc. is Peter Plett. The assessed value of the property fell last year by almost $9 million after the fire.

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Plett could not be reached for comment.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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