When the Alaska Highway was constructed in 1942, the American soldiers on hand needed a place to stay.
Con Hergot and Joe Dill built the hotel that was “the place to stay” at the time, according to North Peace Museum Curator Heather Longworth.
In addition to being a hotel, The Condill also allowed residents to take a bath there for 75 cents, “but you had to bring your own soap and towel.”
“It was the one place in town where you could go to have a bath,” she said.
Leo Budnick started working at The Condill when he was 18.
“I was born July 27, ’42 and it was born on Aug. 2, ’42,” said Budnick.
Both will be celebrating their 70th birthday in the coming week.
“By the time I was 20, I was the manager of the lounge in this place,” said Budnick.
He explained that the legal drinking age was 21 at the time, and before he made it that far, he and his wife, Elaine, already leased the restaurant.
“This was our first restaurant,” said Budnick.
The Budnicks eventually left Fort St. John, only to return in 1988 to purchase The Condill.
“It’s an original place,” said Budnick. “It’s nickname is ‘The Dill;’ our slogan is ‘only at The Dill.’”
“We are famous for good steaks, good food; famous for good entertainment, and at one time, years ago, it was famous for being pretty rough,” he continued. “But it’s not rough anymore.”
He said the rough days are now gone.
“We don’t have rough people anymore,” said Budnick. “We run it clean.
“We work with the police; we’re drug free,” he continued. “If we catch you asking to buy drugs, we call the police, and if we catch you selling drugs, we call the police.”
He noted that they “cleaned” out The Condill four years ago.
“That’s why everything is changed,” he said. “It’s nothing to have 20 or 25 couples in here some nights.
“Guys bring their wives out now because we run it clean,” he continued.
Budnick noted that they don’t allow “smut.”
“You run it clean and you upgrade your clientele; you run it dirty and you got garbage,” said Budnick.
He said he feels strongly that if you “give a person enough liquor, you should be responsible for taking them home.”
Though he does believe the liquor laws are a little “too tough.”
“But we had to toughen them up; the drinking and driving was out of hand,” he said.
When he returned in ’88, Budnick said there was a need for adult entertainment in town.
“Our thing is country music,” he said. “But when we came back here, country music was saturated, so you do what you have to do and it works.
“You gotta eat, you gotta pay the bills,” he continued.
Budnick explained that one of the major changes through the years were the wages of his employees.
“Years ago, 90 per cent of the girls had a sideline, did other things for income,” he said. “Now they don’t.
“A lot of these kids are college kids,” he continued. “A lot of these kids have businesses.”
Many of Budnick’s “girls” stopped by to give him hugs and welcome him home. They spend their winters south, and have just returned to Fort St. John from vacation. He said he has no plans to sell any time soon.
“I’m going to be 70 on Friday, and I plan on keeping it for a while; I think it’s here for a while,” he said.
He explained that he’s met many friends through the years.
“It’s a meeting place,” he said. “The regulars, the old-timers – this is where they met.
“This is where all their friends (are), and they want to have their funerals (here),” he said.
He pointed to photos of “regulars” in the front lobby who have since passed on. Each of the more than 50 people pictured had a portion of their funeral hosted at ‘The Dill.’
“We have characters come in here,” he said. “You’d be surprised who comes in here.”
Some members of the community have referred to their first trip to The Condill as a “right of passage” in Fort St. John.
“It’s been a helluva ride,” said Budnick. “It’s fun; it’s interesting; there’s no dull moments.”
In reference to the bikini-clad girls who greeted him upon arrival, he said, “It’s kind of nice to have a welcoming committee when you come in.”