It's eviction day for the Hamilton chapter of the Hells Angels.
Police were on site at the motorcycle gang's clubhouse at Gage Avenue North and Beach Road on Thursday morning, helping the bailiff with "an eviction proceeding," said Const. Steve Welton of Hamilton Police Services. Officers from the OPP's biker enforcement unit were there too.
Neighbours say police arrived on scene around 8:30 a.m., and they saw workers drill open a lock at the clubhouse. There appeared to be about three unmarked vans and two cruisers on scene on Thursday morning.
There are no criminal investigations at the site. Rather, the Hells Angels were being evicted for a dispute over whether they paid the rent, said Neil Emerson of Halton Bailiff Services, which handled the case.
'They use those things to make money and have a place for their membership to attend. It's their flagship.' - Det. Staff Sgt. Len Isner
Emerson wouldn't say how much the owner said the Hells Angels owed, only that the biker gang disagreed with the owner.
"There is an honest dispute," he said. "This was a calculation matter and it's something the parties are going to have to resolve between them."
The club members were polite and not confrontational, he said.
"They were fully cooperative with the police and the bailiffs. There was no hostility involved."
The property is owned by Greg Tilley, who according to 2009 media reports was the one-time owner of the Gage Tavern, which used to be located at 105 Beach Rd.
The owner owes the city three years worth of back taxes, said Larry Friday, the city's director of taxation. That's the equivalent of $69,452.37.
There is a city lien on the property, Friday said. If that's not rectified by the spring, the property goes up for sale for back taxes in May.
The clubhouse was home to about a dozen Hells Angels members, said Det. Staff Sgt. Len Isner, head of the OPP biker enforcement unit. It was also shared with a handful of Red Devils biker gang members.
The clubhouse was active, Isner said, and an important part of the Hamilton chapter's identity. Another clubhouse will likely pop up somewhere else in Hamilton.
"They use those things to make money and have a place for their membership to attend," he said. "It's their flagship."
'There were drug dealers in here and they got them out…I've never, ever had a problem with them.' - Antonietta Tirabassi, neighbour
The club has been on Beach Road for about five years, Isner said. Before that, there was a clubhouse on Lottridge that was seized by authorities.
Many clubhouses are owned by the gangs themselves, Isner said. But increasingly, the gang is renting clubhouses so the properties can't be seized through the civil remedies act.
The Hamilton chapter started in 2005 and is one of 14 in Ontario, Isner said. The gang has about 6,000 members worldwide, he said, and deep ties in the crime world.
In Hamilton, the Beach Road clubhouse is a fortress-like brown, red and white building with locked gates protecting the side parking lot. Its windows are covered and barred.
Antonietta Tirabassi lives next door to the clubhouse with her 18-month-old son. She's never had an issue with the bikers as neighbours.
'I'm under no illusion that their impact on the community goes away because their clubhouse does.' - Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor
"I feel like they're protecting our neighbourhood," she said. "Honestly, people fear the name so they don't want to start problems in their territory. To me, I think it's honestly helping our neighbourhood. There were drug dealers in here and they got them out…I've never, ever had a problem with them."
Trevor Hayle, who lives nearby, agrees. The biker gang members are even quiet during parties, he said.
Impact doesn't go away
"Honestly, they're better than normal people having a house party."
Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, isn't surprised by that sentiment. The presence of the clubhouse sent the message that the neighbourhood was Hells Angels turf.
"I'm sure if you asked residents of the community, they probably felt really safe," he said. But "they're an outlaw motorcycle gang with known ties to organized crime."
"I'm hopeful that whoever takes control of that particular building next takes the logos and insignias off of our streets and out of our neighbourhood. But I'm under no illusion that their impact on the community goes away because their clubhouse does."