Minden’s Rockcliffe Tavern rebuild nixed

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The owners of the historic Rockcliffe Tavern in downtown Minden have nixed plans to rebuild the site, announcing this week they intend to put the property up for sale.

Friends Dan Gosselin, Kirsty Goodearle, and Mark and Lise Dracup purchased the old bar, located on Bobcaygeon Road, in February 2021 and unveiled grand plans to rebuild the once-popular site. Now, more than two years later, they’re getting ready to relist the property.

“Unfortunately, our discussions with the township of Minden Hills have not progressed the way we would’ve hoped… which is really disappointing, not only to us, but we’re sure many of you. After nearly three years of planning, we are now making the difficult decision to put the original Rockcliffe property back up for sale,” the group said in a post on Facebook.

They will focus their attentions on the Rockcliffe Moore Falls location, which opened in June 2022.

In a recent interview with The Highlander, Gosselin laid the blame for the downtown project failing at the feet of Minden Hills staff and council. He noted the Rockcliffe investors were interested in purchasing a parcel of municipal land beside the rundown building, which has been vacant since 2015, allowing them to rebuild a “bigger, better Rockcliffe.”

Mayor: ‘open for business’

Discussions with the town first took place in October 2021. Shortly after, Gosselin and co. appeared before the previous Minden council, which deemed the land to be surplus. They directed staff to source a survey and come up with a valuation. Months, then years, went by without any update

“We haven’t gotten anywhere – no responses from township staff, no activity, no information. We’ve been told for the past year this is a private council matter and couldn’t be discussed behind closed doors,” Gosselin said.

“When we brought this project on, we knew there would be challenges, but the lack of action has been ridiculous. Had you told me before that Minden is such a terrible place [for entrepreneurs] to get support, we probably wouldn’t have bought it.”

Minden Hills mayor Bob Carter said timelines for the survey were thrown off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said municipalities must go through “a very stringent process” when wanting to sell surplus land and that staff had done everything by the book.

That survey was completed earlier this year, with the land valued at approximately $125,000. Staff then retained a realtor and began the process to put it on the market.

“There were a couple of people who had expressed interest, so we went to them before it went onto the market,” Carter said. “It was always going to go on the market. We can’t just sell it to them, it’s a piece of municipal land. We have to make it available through a fair process, and that’s what we did.”

Carter said any notion that Minden Hills is anti-business, or anti-development is “categorically false.

“We’re totally open for business. Just because they [the Rockcliffe owners] weren’t successful in what they wanted to build doesn’t mean we’re not open for business,” the mayor said. “We can’t show favouritism. Whoever wins the bid may want to build something else. Not everybody has the same ideas.”

Carter noted a deal to sell the property has been agreed and will close later this month.

The group, in their post, say their focus is now entirely on building the Moore Falls location.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but we still think we’ve done an incredible thing for the community. We didn’t bring back the old Rockcliffe, but I think we brought something new and exciting,” Gosselin said. “We’re all in on this [Moore Falls] location.”

Editor’s note: The story has been corrected from an earlier edition, which said the township land along Bobcaygeon Road was valued at approximately $1.25 million. The actual value of the land was around $125,000.