Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Osborne institution closing

Late-night restaurant a fixture since mid-'70s

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Winnipeg's vampires are going to need a new hangout come this October.

That's when Papa George's restaurant, an Osborne Village late-night institution since the mid-1970s, will shut off its pizza ovens for good.

"I'm retiring. My health isn't that good," said owner Nick Kontzamanis.

The 25 or so staff members at the restaurant -- perhaps best known, thanks to its neon signs, for being open until 4 a.m. -- were told about the move earlier this summer.

One employee, who asked not to be named, said she and many of her colleagues are upset about having to leave the only employer they've ever known and find new jobs.

"It's sad. A lot of us have grown up in this place," she said. "He's retiring. It's (Kontzamanis's) choice and you can't argue with that. We're all adults. We'll figure it out."

No employees have stepped up with an offer to take the restaurant off of Kontzamanis's hands.

There's no question what was recently crowned Canada's Best Neighbourhood will feel the sting of losing Papa George's, according to Teresa Sanderson, interim executive director of the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone. But rather than dwell on the negative, she said she'd prefer to focus on the potential a new player could bring to the area.

"Papa George's is always packed as soon as the bars close down. It's one of the only places you can get diner-style food at 2 a.m. But with progression and moving forward, there is always change," she said.

Papa George's will be the second high-profile Winnipeg restaurant to close down this year after The Wagon Wheel, which served its last clubhouse sandwich last month.

The Papa George announcement also comes on the same day demolition crews began tearing down the building that housed the Vi Ann restaurant, just north of Papa George's on Osborne. The Shoppers Drug Mart next door will expand to take over the space left by Vi Ann and Movie Village.

It shouldn't be surprising, however, to hear some long-standing restaurateurs are looking to hang up their aprons.

"It's a tough business. It's very demanding on your family life. There are long days, you're working holidays. It can be a grind," said Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant & Food Services Association.

"Sometimes people from the outside think that restaurants are printing money."

Jocelyn said considering the number of people who go through Osborne Village on a daily basis, he would expect another restaurant to open up in Papa George's space.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2012 B5

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