There is still a bit of air under it, with a slight possibility it can be purchased and re-opened, but as of now the last bastion of imbibery in the Gulch is closed.
The Rex Hotel, the last bar standing in a block which once had four thriving taverns, closed Monday.
After more than eight decades in which the Rex hosted locals and newcomers, sponsored multitudes of teams in many sports and was a gathering place for people in the community, the owners simply find they cannot make even a simple bar work in the current regulatory and economic climate.
They, and a few dozen regular patrons, are understandably dismayed, but it is what it is. Part of a lifestyle for long term regulars – the place they could meet their friends without making an appointment, hear the latest news, connect with trades and business people and just socialize – the Rex will be sorely missed by some, but was ignored by enough that it couldn’t be sustained.
The Rex began life as an actual hotel, with a lobby and rooms that were often filled. Like other hotels, its liquor licence augmented innkeeper income to make the place profitable. Like other hotels of its era, it eventually became kind of an apartment building with a bar in place.
The Rex was, back in the day, almost a halfway house for the influx of northern Saskatchewan families that moved here for work, and it was a vital central location during the 60s battle between the Steelworkers union and the even further left wing Canadian Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers – often headed by a card carrying Communist – in which the U.S.-centered Steelworkers prevailed, in no small part because of the efforts of those clustered in the Rex.
Over the years, in part due to the sports orientation of most of its clientele, the Rex evolved into the only self-proclaimed, “Sports Bar,” in the area.
(Trail being the place it is, all the other bars in town, public and private, were also very sports involved, to the point that the local senior B fastball league once had a rule mandating that both teams would repair to the home team’s sponsoring establishment following a game).
The Rex is home to the most fanatic of hunters, hockey and football fans, and still sponsored a men’s team in the Commercial League.
Part of its downfall has to do with the fact that members of teams it sponsored seldom dropped by to patronize the place, but the sports vibe has been maintained by the owners and regulars who lament its going. It hosted the beginning of the best NFL pool in the area just last week, and planning for the hockey season was under way.
Over the decades, the Rex hosted big and small time sports personalities and an array of age groups – which allowed the young to become friends with, and learn from, the successful and the knowledgeable from outside of and within the community.
I have always studied history, even have a degree in it. I always tell people that the most important thing I have learned about history is that, “It’s Over!”
The Rex has had a great and colourful existence. Now, at least as we have come to know it over the decades, it’s history.