Renovated Edmonton hotel skirts wheelchair accessibility requirements

The revitalization of an historic Edmonton hotel did not include one major modernization — making its rooms and bathrooms wheelchair accessible.

Crash Hotel opens in a building that still operates under permit guidelines from 1904

Edmonton's newly renovated Crash Hotel used to be the Grand Hotel, though originally known as the Richelieu Hotel which opened in 1904. (Facebook)

The revitalization of an historic Edmonton hotel did not include one major modernization — making its rooms and bathrooms wheelchair accessible.

Crash Hotel launched its downtown site on New Year's Eve, targeting a youthful demographic with creatively designed rooms. The building is located across from the Ice District and Rogers Place.

Joe Moulins says he can't stay at Edmonton's newly renovated Crash Hotel because his brother Jeff Moulins' wheechair doesn't fit in its rooms or bathrooms. (Supplied/Joe Moulins)

Joe Moulins wanted to book one of those rooms with his brother, Jeff Moulins, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

The two are visiting Edmonton to see an Oilers game, so were looking for a hotel near the arena.

When Joe Moulins asked about accessibility at Crash Hotel, he said a staff member replied that his brother's wheelchair wouldn't fit through the doors or into the bathrooms.

"I'm shocked that sort of thing is still allowed," Moulins said.

"It's kind of sad that in this day and age, this kind of question still comes up."

Barriers to barrier-free access

The hotel building opened as the Richelieu Hotel in 1904, before devolving into the Grand Hotel — which earned reviews such as "worst hotel ever" on travel websites.

A private group called Urban Sparq Hospitality recently bought the building and began renovating the rooms.

Edmonton's newest hotel is one of its oldest. The Crash Hotel embraces 112 years of history while offering offbeat, 'non-cookie cutter' rooms 1:41

New buildings in Edmonton must be "barrier-free," according to Chad Rich, the city's general supervisor for safety codes, permits and construction.

One loophole, however, is if a building pre-dates those guidelines without having undergone any structural or functional changes.

"If there's a change of use or renovation where they're doing washrooms, doorways, things like that, there is a requirement for them to update," Rich said about Crash Hotel.

"If they're doing cosmetic changes, as their latest permit is, to paint some walls and change some fixtures, there is no requirement to upgrade."

Effectively, the owners of Crash Hotel are operating under century-old guidelines. 

"We are examining the feasibility of renovating one or two rooms for full accessibility as we work on the rest of the rooms in this building that is over 100 years old," said Carmen Winkler, Urban Sparq's director of operations.

Currently, 18 of the hotel's 74 rooms are open to guests. Winkler said the company has not filed for the permit it needs to make some of those rooms wheelchair accessible.

'Make the rooms accessible to everyone'

Joe Moulins said the hotel's response is "unacceptable," especially about something he sees as a human rights issue for his brother. 

"I appreciate that they're making the effort, but that sounds like the bare minimum," Moulins said.

"It should just be a given. Make the rooms accessible to everyone."

Edmonton's new Crash Hotel launched on New Year's Eve. (Facebook)

Urban Sparq owns several other properties in Edmonton, including Knoxville's Tavern and Denizen Hall.

The company also attempted to get approval for two mega-bars in 2016. One of those proposals was rejected by the city, though Urban Sparq is moving ahead on its proposal for a 1,400-seat nightclub on 109th Street.