Dawson Creek will soon be a boom town with no strip club.
Elbow's Pub will close in late July, according to staff at the establishment, which operates out of a leased space at the George Dawson Inn. Management at the hotel confirmed that the strip club would soon close.
The inn itself is considering changes to some aspects of its operation. General Manager Tracey Winland said that ownership was not changing, but that the George Dawson Inn may "branch" into a Choice Hotel - the parent company of hotel brands including Quality Inn and Econolodge. Winland was unable to comment further, as some aspects of the deal had not been finalized.
The closure of Elbow's was not related to the potential changes, Winland said.
"There are many factors why it's closing," she said. "People want to assume that it's because we've sold - I've heard that before too. We haven't sold. There are lots of factors playing into that."
Kathleen Connolly, the director of the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce, says that the closure of an establishment like Elbow's hints that the spoils of the impending resource "boom" are not being distributed equally.
"I think it's interesting that in a boom town, we're losing an element associated with boom towns," she said. "Personally, I would say it's a reflection of what's going on in our community. We don't have a large transient work force because they're all in work camps. As some men do in their off time, they go for a beer at the peeler bar. But if they can't get off of those camps, there are businesses that are going to suffer."
According to estimates from local governments, there are thousands of workers living in camps in the Peace, though firm numbers are hard to come by because work camps are approved and managed by a number of overlapping government agencies.
A Northern Health report from 2012 pegs the number of work camps in the region at 1,809, ranging in size from five residents to several hundred. Northern Health spokesperson Jonathon Dyck added that its unlikely all those camps were in use at the same time.
Work camps have been a tough sell to local businesses, who believe they are a drain on local establishments of all descriptions.
"It is a good indication when you shut down a service like [Elbow's] that there's something going on in the larger economy," said Connolly.
However, Dawson Creek has seen a number of strip clubs come and go over the years. The Windsor Hotel, which has since been demolished, was a popular watering hole, while the Hart Hotel in Pouce Coupe also offered exotic entertainment. There are still a number of establishments in Fort St. John.
In recent years, though, hospitality business in general has dropped off in Dawson Creek, according to several area hotel owners.
Mayor Dale Bumstead said he had not personally heard of the coming closure, but said it could be related to the region's changing economy.
"Is that a change in the demographics of our community, that people just aren't supporting that type of establishment any longer?" Bumstead questioned. "Or is it external factors related to work camps that are pulling people out of the community?"
Connolly said she had heard of some camps that bring in exotic entertainment - a claim which two camp operators contacted by the Alaska Highway News vehemently denied.
A holding company owned by Tony Thobani acquired the George Dawson Inn in 2006, according to Winland.
Staff at Elbow's told the Alaska Highway News that the business will tentatively close after July 26, though employees at the inn said that date was not set in stone.
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