News / Winnipeg

Blue Nile owner appeals rejection to open new club in Winnipeg's west end

Winnipeg police and the area councillor say the new nightclub would be harmful to the community.

Winnipeg police outside the Blue Nile nightclub on Sargent Avenue on Sat. Feb. 14, 2015 after four people were stabbed.

Metro File

Winnipeg police outside the Blue Nile nightclub on Sargent Avenue on Sat. Feb. 14, 2015 after four people were stabbed.

A property owner who wants to open a new controversial 470-person nightclub in the West End is appealing the rejection of his application by the city's Board of Adjustment. 

The proposal has been met with harsh condemnation by both the Winnipeg Police Service and community members. 

Girma Tessema is appealing a board decision made back in June while he was absent. 

Tessema requests that he be allowed to reopen Rift Valley restaurant at 626 Sargent Avenue, which the former home of a Royal Canadian Legion. 

He had originally opened a restaurant in the former legion hall, but the building was destroyed by fire earlier this year. 

Tessema's new proposal now includes a 330-person restaurant on the main floor with a stage and dance floor in the basement. 

He also wants an 80-person banquet hall on second floor and 60-person roof top patio. 

City staff recommended that the board dismiss the application, citing that is does not comply to many of the area's neighbourhood plans, and would have a "substantial adverse effect" on the community. 

At the time, Winnipeg police Cst. Jeffery Norman penned a scathing letter about Tessema's nearby business, The Blue Nile Restaurant, which he characterized as a hot-bed for violent crime and gang activity.  

Norman also accused Tessema of being an unlawful business owner. 

The city has since removed Norman's letter due to concerns it could be libellous.  

"The Winnipeg Police Service is opposed to Rift Valley obtaining a zoning variance," it now reads. 

Tessema previously denied the allegations to Metro, saying his new club would have security and not all rooms would be used at same the time. 

He also noted a downtown in crime at his other business, which he hoped to sell. 

Area-Coun. Cindy Gilroy and Jamil Mahmood of the Spence Neighbourhood Association also voiced concerns to the board that to the violence associated at The Blue Nile would follow the owner to a new location. 

Thursday's appeal committee will now consider the application. 

With Files from Braeden Jones