How seagulls, pepperoni got Dartmouth man banned from posh B.C. hotel

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria has lifted its ban against Nick Burchill — 17 years after dozens of seagulls trashed the Dartmouth, N.S., man's hotel room while feasting on enough pepperoni to fill his suitcase.

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria lifted 17-year ban against Nick Burchill

Seagulls trashed a Fairmont Empress room in Victoria 17 years ago while indulging on pepperoni that a Dartmouth, N.S., man had brought for his navy friends. Nick Burchill was told he could no longer be a hotel guest as a result, but that ban has now been lifted. (Matt Cardy/Getty/Submitted by Brothers Meat & Delicatessen)

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria has lifted its ban against Nick Burchill — 17 years after dozens of seagulls trashed the Dartmouth, N.S., man's hotel room while feasting on enough pepperoni to fill his suitcase.

"I didn't like the feeling of being banned from somewhere," Burchill said. "So when I was out there last week for a different conference, I thought that I would approach The Empress and see if I could officially get my record cleared."

Burchill's story began with good intentions. He was taking a small suitcase full of Brothers Pepperoni — a widely requested Halifax delicacy — to some of his navy friends in the B.C. capital.

"It was a long flight, that time of the year where everyone travels, so the bag got lost, misplaced for a period of time," said Burchill, who wrote a widely shared Facebook post about the ordeal.

When the pepperoni finally arrived at the hotel, Burchill said he worried it would get warm because there was no fridge, so he laid the food out on a table near the window ledge and the chilly April air.

"And that's when things kind of went bad," said Burchill.

'The seagulls were flying everywhere'

Burchill left the room for a few hours to take a walk. He returned to a room full of seagulls.

"I don't mean just a couple of seagulls. I can only estimate how many there were," he said. "I'm thinking somewhere between 30 and 40 seagulls had come in through this open window while I was gone.

"And I would have never thought of that because the East Coast seagulls aren't that brazen. They'd never come into a room or do that sort of thing — at least I don't think they would."

The Empress's marketing manager confirmed to CBC News on Sunday that Burchill is no longer banned from staying at the hotel. (fairmont.com)

The seagulls were startled when Burchill opened the door. He said many tried to leave through the small opening all at once.

"The seagulls were flying everywhere and they had been there for a long time eating Brothers TNT Pepperoni, so you can imagine what the room looked like even before I came back. And now we've got seagulls flying around, the curtains are falling down, the lamps are falling down. It was a real mess."

Shoe, towel tossed out window

Complicating matters was the fact Burchill had just started his job three months earlier. His employer had booked the hotel and he needed to attend a dinner with customers. There were two seagulls left in the room and he had to get them out.

I was kind of losing my temper at this point.- Nick Burchill

"One was just bouncing around on the windowsill and I was kind of losing my temper at this point, so I took off one of my shoes and I threw it in the direction of the seagull, and both the seagull and the shoe went out the window," he said.

"The last seagull, it was running around the room and this is a fairly large room, nice room — or it was. And I was chasing this seagull around. It had a big piece of pepperoni in its mouth and I could not get it to leave."

Burchill said he ended up grabbing a towel from the washroom and he jumped the seagull, wrapped it in a towel and threw it out the window. He said the seagull was shaken but wasn't hurt.

While everything was happening in his room, Burchill said there was a line of tourists out in front of the hotel and they witnessed both his shoe and the seagull wrapped in a towel falling from his room.

Horrified hotel cleaner

"I guess that made an impression on some people. It wasn't very smooth," said Burchill.

Burchill had to go downstairs to get the shoe and towel. He went back up into the room, where the smell of the birds and pepperoni was becoming more apparent.

But he had to get to the dinner with customers, so he started to clean his shoe, which had fallen into some mud.

Fairmont Empress front desk staff members were in stitches when Burchill explained why he had been banned from the hotel. (Submitted by Nick Burchill)

As he was drying the shoe with the hairdryer, the power went out in his room. At that point, Burchill said he "realized I was way in over my head with this mess" and called the front desk for help.

"They sent this poor lady up and I still remember the look on her face when she opened the door.

"She had her cleaning kit with her and it was quite clear that the kit that she had with her was not going to cover the damage and the mess that was in that room."

Making amends with pepperoni

Hotel staff moved Burchill to another room for the rest of his stay.

Burchill said hotel staff were nice about the whole thing, but a letter was sent to his employer telling them he would no longer be allowed to stay at The Empress.

It was a decision Burchill said he respected and understood. But he wanted to make amends, which led him back to the hotel last week. He asked to speak with the staff member who dealt with him the last time, but was told she was no longer an employee.

"When I was talking to the people at the desk and the manager, they did say that they had heard this story from a long-term employee that works there. I was just kind of in and out. I didn't want to overstay my welcome.

"I just apologized. I was forgiven. I left them a present of about a pound of Brothers TNT Pepperoni as a peace offering."

Jeremy Heryet, marketing manager at The Empress, confirmed to CBC News by email Sunday that the ban against Burchill has been lifted.

Burchill said staff encouraged him to book a room at the hotel the next time he's in town.

"I've made friends with one of the managers there and he's made it quite clear that I'm encouraged to stay with them. They'll be disappointed if I don't."

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.