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York Station Conductor Pulls Lever for a Final Time

Publish Date: 19-Jun-2017

Toronto Monday, June 19, 2017

Since 1929, Fairmont Royal York has welcomed guests from all over the world to experience its guestrooms, as well as its collection of ever evolving dining outlets. From cafes, to supper clubs, to Library Bar to EPIC, there’s been a setting serving Fairmont’s signature culinary dishes and classic hand-crafted beverages. One of these authentic spaces is York Station.

“Built in 1972, it’s long stood as ‘Toronto’s coziest bar’- before the days of when the secret bar concept became a trend,” said Patrick Lernihan, director of food and beverage, Fairmont Royal York. “We are an 88-year-old property that has introduced many concepts to our dining outlets, various feature menus, and welcomed many changes in design; however, it’s because of the hidden gem of York Station’s bartender, Alina Budzinski that it’s stayed the same, and always stayed on track.”

Originally catered as a station for commuters as they traveled by rail of the yesteryears, the theme was designed with 24 leather seats, dark wood details topped off with a ceiling-raised set of toy tracks and CP train with six cars, mimicking a Canadian Pacific-like club car. It played soft music, had soft lighting.

“I remember the day as if it were yesterday, Wednesday – September 3, 1975. I was 23-years-old, just stepping off of the train at Union Station having moved from Montreal with my boyfriend Stan Budzinski (now husband), when I walked through the hotel’s front doors into the Personnel Office asking for a job,” said Budzinski. “My first posting was in The Coffee Shop, in the Avenues level of the hotel, I was there for one year and four months. They then moved me to the bar one third smaller than the already ‘smallest bar in Toronto’, called the ‘Speakeasy’ with no markings, though red velvet drapes- I was there for one year and then moved to The Black Knight Lounge for 11 years before it closed,” said Budzinski. “It was in 1989 when Kathy Duncan left that I took over the main bartender role in the York Station.”

“It’s her heart, her passion for service and connection to our guests, that York Station stayed on track for all these years,” said Edwin Frizzell, regional vice-president, central Canada and general manager. “A feeling of extreme nostalgia will come over almost anyone who walks into the outlet today, and while we are extremely sad for Alina’s final boarding call on June 30, we would like to sincerely thank her for the significant contributions she made to our hotel, and the endless memories she made that will last a lifetime for both her colleagues and her guests,” said Frizzell.

“One of my favourite traditions in my time working here was my annual Christmas Party – I would host a night around the holidays to thank my regulars – it became a reason for guests to visit Toronto, they booked rooms!” said Budzinski.

The hotel will host a private celebration for Alina and family along with her group of ‘regulars’ on June 29, and close its doors for the final time on June 30.

“We invite the community, and especially those that have had the privilege to get to meet or know Alina, to come visit before June 30 – order her favourite drink and if you’re lucky, she might even ‘Toot’ the train to cheers with you one last time – we’ll miss the echo of the choo-choo train almost as much as we’ll miss Alina’s heart,” said Anna Chartres, regional director of talent and culture, Fairmont Royal York.

When asked her favourite drink to make, it wasn’t any coincidence that it was also her favourite drink to enjoy, “a classic gin martini.”

While currently under design review, the space of York Station will become part of the expanded and renovated meeting rooms on the Main Mezzanine which is part of the hotel’s large-scale refurbishment scheduled for 2018/2019. “The new look of this area, is still under development; but simply put, we knew that there wouldn’t ever be a replacement for Alina – she’s one-of-a-kind,” said Lernihan.

“I would like to thank my guests; when someone would return, or return with a friend, it meant the world to me – there were a lot of ups and downs in my sales over the years – market crash, SARS outbreak, but it were my loyal guests and the whimsy of never knowing whom would walk in next (celebrity, dignitary, my friends etc.) that kept this train going,” said Budzinski.

Alina looks forward to have time to spend with her husband, “He no longer will say, ‘oh, you’re back – just in time to sleep’, she said with a giggle. Alina lives in High Park and doesn’t plan to get into a regular routine just yet, “I hope to explore Toronto first, then the rest of Canada starting with the Rockies and East coast, and then maybe go back to visit Spain and Italy.”

Limited media interviews are available– please contact Jacqueline Tyler, marketing & communications manager to arrange or request high-resolution photos.

For dining outlet information or to make reservations, click here.

#FairmontCocktails #FairmontRoyalYork

Marketing & Communications Manager
Fairmont Royal York
Tel: M (416) 802 5059

For the past 88 years, Fairmont Royal York, originally called The Royal York, has stood tall and proud, immediately opposite of Toronto’s Union Station and Canadian Pacific Railway, located at 100 Front Street West. Designed by Ross and Macdonald, and built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth, soaring at 28 floors and close to 400 ft. above ground, the hotel quickly set the standard for hospitality during this time. This historic building became, and is still known as a city within a city. Upon opening, the state-of-the-art hotel offered 1,048 guest rooms equipped with a radio, private shower and bath in each room. In addition, The Royal York included a large Concert Hall, which was home to Canada’s largest pipe organ, weighing in at 50 tons with five manuals and 107 stops. The telephone switchboard was 66 feet long and required 35 operators. The 1.5 acres of public rooms also included a 12-bed hospital and a 12,000-book library. The hotel was also home to a glass-enclosed roof garden, the largest hotel kitchen in Canada with a bakery that could produce over 15,000 French rolls a day. In 2016, the hotel recently completed a 1,200-room $150M renovation project to now boast 1,373 renovated luxury accommodations and will soon undergo a $200M investment with new meeting rooms and event spaces, Fairmont Gold and a refresh to all remaining dining outlets. The hotel was also recognized by The Toronto Film Office as “The Most Filmed Location” for 2016 – which celebrates its starlight in endless films and TV productions. It is no wonder that Fairmont Royal York Hotel continues to play such a prominent role in Toronto’s history.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts connects guests to the very best of its destinations worldwide, providing travelers with memorable travel experiences, thoughtful and attentive service and luxury hotels that are truly unforgettable. Each Fairmont property reflects the locale’s energy, culture and history through locally inspired cuisine, spirited bars and lounges and distinctive design and decor. With more than 70 hotels globally, and many more in development, the Fairmont collection boasts some of the most iconic and distinctive hotels in the world. This extraordinary collection includes The Plaza in New York, The Savoy in London, Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Dubai’s Fairmont The Palm, Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai, Fairmont San Francisco and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City. Fairmont is part of AccorHotels, a world-leading travel & lifestyle group and digital innovator offering unique experiences in more than 4,100 hotels, resorts and residences, as well as in over 3000 of the finest private homes around the globe. For more information or reservations, please visit

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