Andrew King: The Beachcomber Room, Ottawa’s original 1960s Tiki bar

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A tiki-mug and an original Ottawa Tiki-bar menu.

A tiki-mug and an original Ottawa Tiki-bar menu.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew King has contributed several pieces to OttawaStart about our city’s forgotten motels. Most recently, we collaborated on a search for two motels in the Greenbelt outside of Bells Corners. Before that, he wrote about the old Talisman Hotel on Carling Avenue. This latest episode takes us back into the Talisman, on a visit to the Beachcomber Room, where “Swingers, sophisticates, chicks and cats make the liveliest scene in town…” This post originally appeared on Andrew’s blog, Ottawa Rewind.

We’d love to hear from our readers about any memories they have from the Beachcomber Room. Add your comments below or email feedback@ottawastart.com

“Swingers, sophisticates, chicks and cats make the liveliest scene in town…”  The Talisman is now the Travelodge Hotel. Scan from  1960’s event magazine “What’s On in Ottawa”

“Swingers, sophisticates, chicks and cats make the liveliest scene in town…” The Talisman is now the Travelodge Hotel. Scan from 1960’s event magazine “What’s On in Ottawa”.

 

Every city has its favourite night clubs, most of them enjoying the spotlight for a few years before something trendier comes along. Every decade has its hot spots, and in the 1960s, one of the hottest, or should I say coolest night clubs was Ottawa’s “Beachcomber Room”. Located in the Talisman Motor Inn on Carling Avenue, the Beachcomber Room boasted the latest in Tiki culture and entertainment through the vision of  Talisman designer William Teron.

Original 1960s postcard of the Talisman Motor Inn that contained the Beachcomber Room

Original 1960s postcard of the Talisman Motor Inn that contained the Beachcomber Room

 

 

Built in 1963 as Ottawa’s premier business convention centre and hotel, Teron designed the Talisman with a South Pacific theme, including a very faithful replica of a tranquil Japanese garden at the center of the motel. The Beachcomber Room was “flamboyantly decorated in a Tahitian motif” and also featured a 90-foot mural painted by Count Alex Van Svodoba, who also completed a mural at Carleton University.

 

The Talisman Motor Inn as it appeared in 1989. All original signs have since been removed.

The Talisman Motor Inn as it appeared in 1989. All original signs have since been removed.

 

 

The Polynesian theme of the Beachcomber Room was in tune with the popularity of the Tiki culture during the mid-century era, which was based primarily on “Don the Beachcomber’s” in Hollywood, California. Credited as being the first tiki restaurant that all others copied, its founder, Donn Beach, was the first to mix flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. The trend became the hot ticket for Hollywood stars and elite, making the Tiki-theme a nationwide phenomenon.  Ottawa was no exception, with The Tabu opening in the old Beacon Arms Hotel (now the Capital Hotel & Suites) in the early sixties and The Beachcomber Room opening soon afterwards in 1963, taking its name directly from the original Hollywood establishment.

 

A newspaper ad from the Ottawa Citizen describing the Beachcomber Room with its GO-Go Girls and

A newspaper ad from a late 1960s Ottawa Citizen describing the Beachcomber Room with its GO-Go Girls to make “you surge with emotion”

 

 

Enjoying almost three decades of popularity as Ottawa’s hottest drinking and entertainment establishment, the Beachcomber Room was THE place to dance, listen to live music and enjoy the quintessential Tiki Mai Tai cocktail. However, as with most bars, its popularity wained and the Talisman name was dropped when it became a Travelodge and it was extensively renovated with a Kids Water Park and its unique Polynesian theme was lost.  Remnants of the Japanese gardens are still visible today, as are some architectural details from its illustrious past. But where was the Beachcomber Room? What is left of it? Lets comb the beach…

 

Approaching the old Talisman, its unique 1960s architectural style by Bill Teron is still evident.

Approaching the old Talisman, its unique 1960s architectural style by Bill Teron is still evident.

 

Original postcard of the Talisman central Japanese Garden...

Original postcard of the Talisman central Japanese Garden…

 

...and that same view as it looks today.

…and that same view as it looks today.

 

Some left over relics from the old South Pacific themed Talisman can be spotted around the present day hotel, like this Japanese hutch.

Some left over relics from the old South Pacific themed Talisman can be spotted around the present day hotel, like this Japanese hutch.

 

More relics of the Talisman's glorious Polynesian past...some wall hangings on a wall hidden by an emergency exit.

More relics of the Talisman’s glorious Polynesian past…some wall hangings on a wall hidden by an emergency exit.

 

A 1963 newspaper article describes the Beachcomber Room as being "downstairs"

A 1963 newspaper article describes the Beachcomber Room as being “downstairs”

 

A clue...marked on an old sign in the stairway is "BEACHCOMBER ROOM"

A clue…marked on an old sign in the stairway is “BEACHCOMBER ROOM”

 

Another sign clue is leading us downstairs in the direction of the Beachcomber Room.

Another sign clue is leading us downstairs in the direction of the Beachcomber Room.

 

...and there it is. I have no idea what lies behind those doors and if the original 1963 Polynesian themed mural by Count Alex Von Svodoba is still in there.

…and there it is. I have no idea what lies behind those doors and if the original 1963 Polynesian themed mural by Count Alex Von Svodoba is still in there.

 

These abandonedf stairs would have lead you down to Ottawa's hottest nightclub, the long lost original tiki-bar known as...THE BEACHCOMBER ROOM.

These abandonedf stairs would have lead you down to Ottawa’s hottest nightclub, the long lost original tiki-bar known as…THE BEACHCOMBER ROOM.

 

The current hotel website says you can rent out the 5600 square foot "Beachcomber Room"....Tiki-party anyone?

The current hotel website says you can rent out the 5600 square foot “Beachcomber Room”….Tiki-party anyone?

 

 

 


Andrew King

Andrew King is a local artist, explorer and storyteller. He's a frequent contributor to OttawaStart.com and has a great blog about local history called Ottawa Rewind: https://ottawow.wordpress.com

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15 Responses

  1. Leona says:

    Great article!

    Since the Beachcomber Room can be rented, I’m surprised you didn’t investigate a possible rental and get a look at the room…amd snap a couple of pictures.

    I live across the Queensway from the hotel. Perhaps I’ll walk over and see. Your article has spurred my curiosity, because I’m old enough to have actually gone to the Beachcomber Room in its hay day. As I recall, it was too expensive for my meager budget, which was better suited to cheap drafts in Hull.

  2. John Hughes says:

    I used to live in the Talisman, And although I was underage at the time.. but I would watch the bands load in and out…I knew I wanted to be a musician from that point on. I later went to the Beachcomber religiously when I was old enough.

    I am now in Daisy Train – daisytrainband.com .
    I am now the creator/admin of the Facebook page for The Beachcomber

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/2765971417/

  3. Cathy Thompson says:

    My late father Gary Downes managed the Beachcomber from about 1975 until 1985. He loved it there and was really proud of the room as well as all of his staff. He made sure all of the right entertainment was hired and the place was always packed. He left us many photgraphs and I can share them if you would like. Thanks for writing this article and wow, what a beautiful place it was. I remember that Japanese hutch by the front desk too.

  4. John Hughes says:

    You can see what The Beachcomber looks like today .. there are pictures on the Facebook page. I went in about 5 months ago and took pictures.
    The thought of a reunion has been talked about several times. Never happened..

  5. AvaW says:

    I spent many Friday and Saturday nites there. Lots of fun !!!

  6. anita says:

    I had many date nights in the beachcomber. The popular drink was served in a pineapple with a little umbrella and was $3.50. Visit to Ottawa ayear ago and stayed at Travelodge. Now family place with swim pool etc. Place smells like chlorine and looking very less gracious.

  7. Yep, the Beachcomber Room is indeed still rentable. One of our local science-fiction conventions has made use of it on occasion for masquerade and other events.

  8. Karen Westwood says:

    Spent many fun nights dancing away at The Beachcomber. Lines were long but my friends and I could always jump the queue (and get free jugs of cocktails). Fantastic memories. Thanks B!

  9. Steve says:

    We had our wedding reception in the Beachcomber Room in March 2012, it’s basically all painted beige and carpeted so it can be set up however they want for meetings, conventions etc. There is a higher outer ring with rail then a lower dance floor area that they put a stage on for the band. Not sure if that was how it was set up in the 80’s The stairs you show in the photo above aren’t abandoned they’re used as a fire escape/loading door to the Beachcomber. I imagine the staff at the hotel would have let you take photos, they were very accommodating with our wedding planning.

  10. Robert de Hartog says:

    My father Bob de Hartog was a night manager in the early 70’s. I remember the Room at the Top as well as the Beachcomber room. A family friend Jack Weisvish wa the accountant at that time. My wedding reception was held there April 14,1972.

  11. Laura Tomelin says:

    Worked banquets at a young age of 15, back in the late 70’s. Lots of Italian 5 course wedding dinners. Only dropped one tall parfait that was on a tray of about 30. Good times, warm memories.

  12. Larry K. says:

    I was a bartender at the Beachcomber around 1973/74 when it relocated from its original basement room to a larger one. Great bands. Always busy. Natalie Cole performed there.

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