After 61 years as a staple establishment in Victoria, The Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress will be closing its doors at the end of this month.

The Bengal Lounge: A Rich History

Built in 1912, the space was originally used as the hotel's Reading and Writing Room. In 1954, it was converted into Victoria's first cocktail lounge, the Coronet Lounge. A hotel renovation in 1969 saw a rethinking of the space and yet another transformation as it became the Bengal Lounge that we know and love today.

The vision for the newly-converted lounge in 1969 was an Indian-themed bar with a tiger skin on the wall, where waiters in Nehru jackets served curries and cocktails such as the Bombay Stinger and Bengal Tiger to acknowledge the hotel named for Queen Victoria, Empress of India.

Image: The Bengal Lounge during the daytime. It's easy to see why this room originally made such a wonderful reading and writing space. 

A Beloved Establishment

Renowned for its incredible libations (read: The Empress 1908, a tea-infused vodka and citrus cocktail served alongside a mini scone) and fragrant curry buffet, The Bengal Lounge became a favourite cocktail lounge and gathering space for Victoria's locals and visitors alike.

Image: The Bengal Lounge's regal entrance.

Its plush, oversized leather furniture and Indian-inspired decor create a comfortable and somewhat regal atmosphere that has encouraged its visitors to linger over cocktails and conversation. While the future use of this room is yet to be decided, we have been assured that it will continue to be an integral space within the hotel. The Bengal Lounge's last day of service is expected to be April 30, 2016.

Image: The Empress 1908 cocktail at the Bengal Lounge.  

What's Next for the Fairmont Empress?

While the closing of the lounge will undeniably be the end of an era, this certainly won't be the end of good times to be had at the Fairmont Empress.

The hotel is currently undergoing a $40 million renovation which began in October 2015. Upgrades are set for all guest rooms, as well as an expansion of Fairmont Gold and a new Fairmont Gold Lounge and Patio. 

The renovations also include the addition of a Royal Suite, which will provide guests an unrivalled, luxurious oasis in an expansive suite with a breathtaking view of Victoria's Inner Harbour. The Royal Suite will be perfect for entertaining with a spacious parlour and dining room for at least eight, powder room, full spa-bath and luxurious king suite.

So far, we know that the new restaurant at the Fairmont Empress will feature a menu of locally-inspired cuisine and a carefully curated wine list, supported by a new wine cellar. The bar will showcase expertly-crafted cocktails and a diverse list of draft beers and wines. There's also a rumour that the new restaurant will make use of the hotel's newly expanded rooftop herb and vegetable garden. The restaurant and first set of newly-renovated rooms are set to open in June 2016. 

Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, check out these renderings of newly-renovated spaces within the hotel: