Archive for October 12th, 2011

October 12, 2011

Huether Hotel is a treasure in downtown Waterloo

David Occhipinti at Jazz Room Waterloo

Guitarist David Occhipinti leads his trio at the newly opened Jazz Room. (Julia Pelish photo)

WATERLOO, ONTARIO — Sonia Adlys, all five feet of spunk of her, walks around the Huether Hotel near midnight and marvels at the place. She’s been working at the landmark building for 51 years, yet looks around it with the same expression of wonder one of her guests might wear when introduced to the Huether, a delightfully peculiar place with a distinctive sense of comfort and cool.

Adlys, her husband, Bernie, and their three sons and one daughter have turned the property at King and Princess Streets into one of the most eclectic and fun hangouts in Ontario. Like the Gladstone and Drake hotels in Toronto’s funky Queen West West neighbourhood, the Huether is a multi-purpose venue with a music hall, café, restaurant and bustling bar. Unlike those better-known hotels, the Huether has one unique and definitive plus: A family atmosphere that the Adlyses have cultivated.

“Someone in the family is here all the time and when we couldn’t be here, because we were at my son’s wedding, we made sure we had a police officer on duty the entire night so no minors would be served and things wouldn’t get out of hand,” says Sonia as she gives me a tour around the historic hotel in Waterloo’s wonderfully vibrant, surprisingly upscale downtown.


The Huether is the epicentre of nightlife for a range of the city’s residents, who move and mingle and meld in one another’s interests in a 12,000-plus-square-foot space. In the recently opened café, you’ll spot a 20-something working on a laptop while around the corner seniors tap their feet in the month-old Jazz Room. University kids fill the pool hall and beneath them dinner parties occupy the private dining cave that was excavated in 1987. Another adjacent, step-down dining room has tunnels that the Adlyses have boarded up. “I don’t know where those tunnels went, but this building was around during Prohibition and the Seagram’s facility was just nearby,” Adlys said, offering an explanation for one of the Huether’s curiosities.

Sonia Adlys of Huether Hotel

Sonia Adlys has worked at the Huether for more than a half century. (Julia Pelish photo)

During the week, Research in Motion executives hold business meetings in the upstairs restaurant called the Barley Works while office workers convene on the spacious patio. At the 2,000-square-foot main restaurant that’s been home to the Lion Brewery for decades, blue-collar workers throw back one of the Huether’s nine microbrews. More than 1,000 patrons can fit into the hotel at a time.

“We have so many different kinds of people who come in here,” Adlys said after I took in a recent Jazz Room performance from Juno Award nominee David Occhipinti. “It’s really part of the neighbourhood here.”

What you won’t find at the circa 1842 building that’s named after its original owners is a hotel guest. The Adlyses rent the property’s 16 rooms to students for a bargain rate of about $400 a month. If you’re thinking the Huether beats living in a residence dorm room, you’re ready to ace an exam on co-ed sociology.

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