OUR ROOTS RUN DEEP
In 1902 the space Riverside Cannabis occupies today was used as a horse stable and riding academy.
The grand Belvedere Hotel stood atop the mountain behind our building overlooking the Sooke basin and river.
Horses were provided for guests to do excursions such as hunting trips or used when guests went to visit places like the Sheilds Lake Cabin in the Sooke hills, the stable was a busy part of the area.
In 1934 the Belvedere Hotel burnt down leaving behind not only the huge stone pillars that flanked the hotel entrance, but also stories of Royal guests, rumours of rum running, many hunting tales, memories of Emily Carr painting and selling her artwork, and so much more untold local history.
The stable at the foot of the hill was also left standing after the huge fire, now without its original purpose.
The land and stables were soon bought up by an investor and in 1935 the building was renovated into a Hotel and Beer Parlour.
Prohibition of alcohol ended in BC on Oct. 21 1920, 100 years ago.
It was a strange time after alcohol prohibition finally ended, similar to the end of cannabis prohibition on Oct. 17 2018 and the unusual laws/rules we are currently facing.
In the photo of the Castle from the 1940’s you will notice a ‘Ladies’ entrance, single and escorted women had to enter here thru their own separate door, while men entered to the left.
There was also a requirement that any establishment that served alcohol must provide accommodation, hence the Sooke River Hotels name that still stands today.
In later years, as the laws were relaxed surrounding alcohol sales and consumption, the castle building was further expanded and eventually after the Rittaler Family purchased the property, they opened the first private cold beer and wine store in the Sooke area and at the time it was also the largest in BC.
A strange rule from those times was that all alcohol leaving the store must not be visible and must be in a brown paper bag!
The Rittaler Family also operated the famous Castle Pub that was a memorable local hot spot for many years.
They acquired the first license in the area to sell hard liquor and also were the first to play recorded music on their premise too.
Fun times were had by many in the pub and also playing bingo and other things like NASCAR in later years until it was eventually closed around 2012.
The Castle Liquor Store won Buisness of the Year in Sooke in 2020 and is run by the beloved Elsie and family.
Carrying on the families history, Riverside Cannabis was proudly the first legal cannabis retailer in the Sooke area. It was opened by ‘The Doobie Sisters’ Lori Rittaler and Lisa Taylor on August 1st 2019 and they proudly finished the year with a New Business of the Year award in 2019.
Riverside is located in the oldest and original part of the Castle building, the horse stable.
We are proud of our history and proud to be creating even more tales for future generations to follow!
A piece of the old Belvedere Hotel still remains on display in Sooke as reminder of this incredible part of our past. The stone pillars you see as you enter Ed Macgregor Park were taken from the ruins of the Belvedere Hotel and donated to the community by the Rittaler Family.
There is also an original stable door stored in the Sooke Museums collection.
We look forward to sharing more of our families past on Vancouver Island.
Did you know that the Rittaler Family owned a hotel in downtown Victoria before they came to Sooke and purchased the Castle and it’s land?