Oddly missing from Guelph's pumped-up patio scene this summer has been activity on the two-tiered patio of The Albion Hotel, one of the more established, popular and functional patios in the city for many years.
Turns out the reason for the lights being out at The Albion the past four months were that it was in the process of being sold, a process finalized Friday when local businessman, entrepreneur and board game creator Thomas Gofton took over ownership of both the building and the business.
“It’s now back in the hands of a Guelphite, born and raised. I’m the seventh owner and I have a lot of crazy-assed plans,” Gofton said over the phone Friday, minutes after having a celebratory sip of scotch in the 153-year-old building at the corner of Macdonell and Norfolk streets.
“It’s been an 11-month process,” said Gofton. “It was supposed to close on March 17, and then COVID hit.”
From there it was an up-and-down affair that on several occasions looked like wasn’t going to happen.
“It cost everyone a lot more money than it needed to, but we managed to close it,” said Gofton.
He said he is the seventh owner of the building, buying it from Andrew Donaldson, a University of Guelph grad and Hamilton resident who had owned it since 2005.
Asked how much he paid, Gofton replied “a lot.”
He has a silent business partner in the venture, a longtime friend from the United States.
Gofton owns the popular The Round Table licenced games room on Essex Street and owned Lumus and Nox Breakfast House that recently closed on Wyndham Street. He is also a board game creator of some note.
He plans to get the patio open for food and drinks within the next week or so to take advantage of the remaining weeks of the summer season.
After that he will embark on improving both the look and the food and drink of the business.
The Albion Hotel name remains, but inside there will be a restaurant he describes as "a prohibition Buon Gusto," with elevated cocktails and food, while not quite reaching fine dining level.
“We’re bringing it up a notch. We’re going to make it classier,” he said.
The mornings will see breakfasts, lunch will see gastro fair that elevates simple food and night will be "world class" cocktails made with in-house cordials, oils and elixirs along with quality dining: “date night and business meetings.”
"There will definitely be a speakeasy element to it," said Gofton.
The bar on the second floor will be removed and there will be no more dancing that has been a weekend staple of The Albion for years.
While nothing is finalized, Gofton sees perhaps a boutique cafe on the second floor.
“Traditions that were The Albion, such as Funk Nights, will not exist. At least not for the foreseeable future. I don’t think that business model is sustainable, at least not in the COVID-era. It’s going to take a long time for nightclubs to come back, if they ever do come back,” he said
He is renovating the third floor to house his own business head office and will be open to sharing that office space with others.
“I’m definitely ready to take the bull by the horns and try and take this pivotal piece of Guelph and make it the best thing it could possibly be for the city.”