The centre’s new GM, Jennifer Ralston – who moved from Montreal to take the job – says the response from the community has been “phenomenal, I cannot keep up with demand” for bookings by outside groups for corporate events, banquets and weddings.
As well, the centre is seeing a major architectural overhaul that will take a heritage building and maximize its potential as a banquet centre and a large outdoor dining space along the river.
The club took over the premises Dec. 1 leasing its from Wiser’s.
So far as much as $650,000 has been invested on mechanical and electrical and creating a commercial kitchen, at the club’s expense, Ralston said.
The city of Windsor is kicking in as much as $100,000 for improvements because of the unique 1960's heritage architecture.
Once redone the patio, large enough so that two tables width-wise – accommodating 300 people - can be set along the north, west and south faces of the building, will offer dining in one of the few riverside outside patio restaurants in Windsor.
The patios can also be reconfigured for reception or bar settings.
Meanwhile a revamped interior space allows for greater versatility.
In addition to club activities, such as dining and meeting space, it can be altered for various outside business and community purposes.
That compares to the previous awkward footprint in the CIBC building.
“The way it’s laid out gives us twice the capacity,” Ralston says.
“The previous space (CIBC) had an elevator shaft right in the centre of it so it was very oddly divided, so you couldn’t get 200 people in one space, they would be in separate spaces which for a wedding or for a big gala is of no interest to anybody.”
Ralston says the new venue will also inevitably attract more members.
The club saw a “big decline” in membership after 2009 which has stabilized over the past year, she said.
“Now it’s beginning to get a little crazy in terms of the interest in it.”
Ralston admitted “a lot of" the new interest has to do with the club’s location.
“The location is huge, just because – we’ve come from a place where we had parking problems, we had accessibility problems – and that has been largely removed – and we’re also offering outdoor space on the riverfront which is very difficult to find in Windsor.”
Some initial outside work was done last October repairing walkways.
Ralston calls the centre’s architecture “very cool” and an example of early 1960s design.
Ironically the distillery had wanted to tear down the building.
The reception centre is also right next door to the Canadian Club Brand Centre, a museum about the history of the city's distilling industry, creating a “lovely juxtaposition” between the two buildings, she said.
The architectural revamp will also see some continuity with an identical fence along the river linking the two buildings.
“The space there allows us to gentrify what I think is a remarkable building – really, there’s just something about it that has a great feel,” Ralston said.
“The vibe in there is just very relaxing.”