Mike's Club in the 1970's, Belize City
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Tuesday April 22, 2019

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Mike’s Club, bingo bingo tonight. Photo courtesy George Villanueva.

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Mike's Club in the 1970's, Belize City. East Canal and the river.

How much money did you lose playing "brag" (three card poker)?

Many people have heard of Mike's Club, but did not know what they did there. They also had bingo games. I went there once in my lifetime, mostly looking on at the games. Its also where some of the best domino players played. Regent Street West, just over the canal.

Albert Paul Avila: This is one of our oldest buildings. This building is as old as the Channel Five Building and St. John’s Cathedral. We can tell that it is old because it has two of the tell tail architectural features and that is it has shingles and the foundation is made of bricks.

Jack Roberts: Mr Diamond's place. Great old timer.

Yasin J. Shoman: Used to be a popular watering hole and sports center back when.

Alexander J Morris: Hosted many many legendary billiard tournaments. In the 90s me and my mom would walk wayyy from "yabra" for bingo.

Annie Dawson: In the 70’s my parents had a mom & Pop restaurant below it. The building looked much better back then. Previously owned by Mr. Mike Zayden back in the early 70’s.

Anna Lizama: The house on the left is where my Aunt Hilda Usher lived. Still standing, but falling down.

Update February 2022: "Gambler's Paradise to be Demolished"

The once popular Mike's Club situated at the corner of Regent Street West and West Canal in Belize City has fallen into decay in recent years.

But before that this place was dubbed a gambler's paradise and sports center way back in 1962 when Miguel “Mike” Zayden rented it from the Sikaffy family and had Alvin Diamond manage it.

This was a place where legendary domino players demonstrated their skills live and billiards tournaments were too much to mention.

It was a place where people of all walks of life convened and tried their luck- some made fortunes while others met their demise.

In 2014 one man met his demise here when a gunman entered and shot him dead in the presence of an elected official. Before that incident there was an attempt to burn the building down.

Despite those incidents and others that went unreported, Mike’s Club, one of the oldest structures in the city, stood firm and remained unperturbed.

Until today when a demolition crew visited the establishment to maul it down and shatter all the history it carried for decades.

Belize News Network understands that the establishment may have been sold recently and the new owners remain tight-lipped about their new project.

Photo courtesy Belize News Network.

Photo courtesy Ladyville Highlights.

Mike’s Club Goes Down

And from an unforgettable man to an unforgettable Belizean landmark, another loss today is that of the iconic yet seedy locale called Mike's Club.

The building was torn down today after being sold some time ago.

And for many in the city, patrons who frequented the club, and even the starry-eyed admirer of old buildings, witnessing the demolition of Mike's Club is a loss.

It's a loss because the four walls that engendered countless memories will be just that, a memory.

But it's also another instance of a building from Belize's bygone eras lost to modernity. Cherisse Halsall reports:

If you've spent any time in Belize city you may have gotten at least a glimpse of Mike's Club on East Canal.

It's a rundown southside landmark perched precariously on the edge of the Haulover Creek at its junction with East Canal. If these walls could talk, they would tell you of endless bingo nights, dominoes and carom games, marinated in cigarette smoke and drinks that always kept coming, as small fortunes were won and lost.

And observing it all t least for the last forty years was Glenford Diamond. He said he moved in at 22 and never left.

Glenford Diamond, Former watchman
"I've been living here for about 35-40 years. My father was the proprietor of this place about 43 to 44 years ago, his name was Alvin Diamond. He died and turned over the place to a guy named Brown."

"Anyway the place continued to go on and things went on for a long time for another 40 years you know. A lot of good guys used to come through here, Simmons, the guy that is demolishing the building's father, Mr. Canto all those guys used to pass through here right, they were members of this club about 40 year's ago."

"On Sunday nights we used to have karaoke and we used to sing and have fun and then sometimes after Karaoke we have danced and did things, those were the good old memories and fun times. I'm gonna miss all those."

"It was a bar, a club, everything. Dominoes play every day, you play recreation games and things we play and things went on but in 2019 the whole world got stuck with COVID-19. And that was the downfall of the place. The place died, just died."

And when the long time proprietor Alvin Diamond died, the rightful owner took charge of property- and has undisclosed plans for it:

"So, what has happened now that someone has bought this property?"

Glenford Diamond, Former Security Guard
"I don't know I couldn't tell you if I say anything out of the way then I'm a fool."

So now, all he and the many patrons have are these shingles as a remembrance:

Glenford Diamond, Former Security Guard
"You can all come along and take a snap of the place and have memories about it. We should take these things into museums. You know, these things business in museum's these are museum stuff, man. You don't break down everything just like you put them in a museum. Make people always remember the good old times and these older buildings we have in the country. It just goes to waste. Sad."

And while it's sad enough that Belize City is losing yet another iconic landmark it's doubly so because it doubled as a home for at least 5 people. Among them, this woman referred to in this Facebook video only as Gran.

A week ago Facebook do-gooder Albert Magdaleno of Ladyville highlights introduced her to his audience as she explained that the teardown would leave her with nowhere to go.

Albert Magdaleno, Ladyville Highlights
"A lady who lives downstairs is saying that the building will eventually be torn down and she has to move and she lives downstairs of this building."

"You pay rent or not?"

"I used to pay rent but when the old man died I would give the watchman money because I know I lived here and I didn't want them to kick us out."

"Only you live here, aren't you afraid that this thing might fall down on you. You're laughing but this thing is serious, I know babe but if I cry I still can't fix it."

"I have a daughter but she has lots of children and I don't want to have any more weight, I don't want her to have weight."

But, that visit took place over a week ago. Our team also went to look for the woman that but when we visited we only found the dog. You might think she got into a shelter but here's how she responded to that possibility last week.

Albert Magdaleno, Ladyville Highlights
"You have Raymond Parks shelter, would you go there?"

"Santa Purisima Maria I need a little room papa, I really can't live with a lot of people. I'm not used to that."

But she's not the only one in a tough situation, Mike's club's long-standing watchman is also being evicted.

Glenford Diamond, Former Security Guard
"We all have to move because they are demolishing the place. I'm sad, I'm messed up because I don't have another home that I'm going to."

He does however have a treasure, one of Mike's Club's iconic games that he's hoping to exchange for a future.

Glenford Diamond, Former Security Guard
"My plan is to sell this pool table, this Carom table. and pay for a room, ok. I want $2000 for my Carom table. As soon as I get that then I can rent a room. Life goes on from there."

And this teetering landmark - is still defiant, even in its dismantling, it holds the histories of late nights and early mornings, that seem to ooze from beneath the dilapidated wood - and only the patrons now can remember the secrets of the Club at the Canal's edge.

Channel 7

The Famous Mike's Club Is No More

One of the oldest buildings in Belize City that once housed the popular Mike’s Club, also popularly known as “gambler’s paradise” is being demolished and some city residents aren’t too happy about it. The landmark is said to have been built almost two hundred years ago and has weathered many storms but, in recent years it fell into decay. The building located at the corner of what was formally known as Regent Street West and Richard Street is home to history. But, for the owners of the plot of land that sits upon the run-down structure is a nuisance that needs to be destroyed. Reporter Vejea Alvarez went downtown to take a look at the history and future of Mike’s Club. Here is his report.

Photo courtesy Eugene Trench.

Eugene Trench: Noticing in the News the famous Mikes Club is being demolished by the famous Demolition Company Canto. Although Mikes is going down in history as one of the oldest building that was standing. Just across from the famous Bolton Bridge was the famous George August Meat Shop, Georgie August as he was known as was a famous butcher whose name along with Winston Smiling, Rooster,Cecil Lightburn, Babba abd other butchers who were station in the old market. Another tradition that was around the Bolton Bridge area was the famous River Boats who use to make their stop right in front of Mikes Club across the canal. Local seasonal fruits use to be in abundance and from October the live turkeys start coming patrons use to buy their turkey early and feed and fatten them for Christmas always wonder why some neighbors use to tie a string with a bottle around one of the turkey foot, later on found out that turkeys love to stray and where night catch them they sleep and sometimes the turkey you fatten end up in a neighbor yard never to be seen again.

Top photograph courtesy Noel Escalante

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