A Nova Scotia man has received a “pardon” from the Fairmont Empress for his lifetime ban from the iconic Victoria hotel after he inadvertently trashed one of their rooms with a pack of pepperoni and a flock of seagulls.
It all happened 17 years ago when Nick Burchill booked a room at the Empress for a work conference. Burchill was also in the Canadian Naval Reserve and his Navy buddies asked that he bring some Brother’s pepperoni, a Halifax delicacy.
“Because this was the Navy we were talking about, I brought enough for a ship,” Burchill wrote in a March 28 Facebook post about the ordeal, which has gone viral.
His pepperoni-packed suitcase was misplaced by the airline, so it arrived in Victoria a day late.
Burchill knew the pepperoni was likely still edible but he thought the most food-safe thing to do would be to keep it cool until he turned over the goods.
His fourth-floor room facing the Inner Harbour was large but lacking a refrigerator.
“It was April, the air was chilly. An easy way to keep all of this food cool would be just to keep it next to an open window,” Burchill wrote.
He spread the packages of pepperoni out on a table and along the window sill, then went for a leisurely four or five hour walk.
“I remember walking down the long hall and opening the door to my room to find an entire flock of seagulls in my room,” Burchill wrote. “I didn’t have time to count, but there must have been 40 of them and they had been in my room, eating pepperoni for a long time.”
Burchill discovered that spicy pepperoni does not agree with a seagull’s digestive system. The room was covered in guano.
Burchill’s unexpected entry startled the birds.
“They immediately started flying around and crashing into things as they desperately tried to leave the room through the small opening by which they had entered,” he wrote. “Less composed seagulls are attempting to leave through the other closed windows. The result was a tornado of seagull excrement, feathers, pepperoni chunks and fairly large birds whipping around the room.”
Lamps tumbled to the floor, the curtains were trashed, the coffee tray was disgusting, he described.
Burchill waded through the flock and opened the remaining windows to let the gulls escape.
“One tried to re-enter the room to grab another piece of pepperoni and in my agitated state, I took off one of my shoes and threw it at him,” he said.
Burchill then chased the last gull standing through the room as it held a “big hunk of pepperoni in its gob.”
He grabbed a towel, captured the bird and in his haste, threw the package out the window, too.
Unbeknownst to Burchill, the shoe and the towel-trapped seagull had plummeted to the Empress’s front lawn, striking a group of tourists who were walking toward the tea room.
Back in the room, Burchill was surveying the damage and also trying to make it on time to an important work dinner. Then he realized one half of his only pair of shoes was on the hotel’s front lawn. He recovered the shoe which was a bit wet from landing in a patch of soil.
Burchill tried to dry the shoe with a hairdryer, and when his phone rang, distraction caused the hairdryer to plunge into a sink filled with water.
“I don’t know how much of the hotel’s power I knocked-out, but at that point I decided I needed help,” Burchill wrote.
Finally, he called the front desk to fess up to what happened.
“I can still remember the look on the lady’s face when she opened the door,” he said.
He left the dismayed cleaning lady and went to his work dinner. When Burchill returned, his items were moved to a smaller room and eventually his company received a letter banning him from the Empress.
In his mea culpa letter to the hotel, Burchill writes “I have matured and I admit responsibility for my actions. I come to you, hat-in-hand to apologize for the damage I had indirectly come to cause and to ask you reconsider my lifetime ban from the property. I hope that you will see fit to either grant me a pardon, or consider my 18 year away from the Empress as ‘time served,’ “
Tracey Drake, the hotel’s director of public relations said as wild as it sounds, the story is true. Drake initially thought it was an April Fool’s joke but long-term staff confirmed the tale, she said.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t make this stuff up,” Drake said. “In the hotel industry, you see a lot of things.”
Burchill visited Victoria and the Empress Hotel over the Easter weekend. Ryan Reardon, the hotel’s director of rooms, told him he is once again welcome as a guest.
“I bet it was the pound of Brothers Pepperoni that I gave them as a peace offering that did the trick,” Burchill quipped.