Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pub proprietor was feeling Lo, but hopes dream will rise again

  • Print

It's Tuesday afternoon, the sun is gentle on an Exchange District patio, and Jack Jonasson has just ordered a beer.

This seems to come as a surprise to the man himself. "Why not," Jonasson says, and laughs. "After all, I'm not working."

These are not words Jonasson is used to saying. For the first time in four years, the Lo Pub proprietor has nowhere else to be: his hip downtown pub and bistro closed its doors on Saturday, through no fault of its own. The pub was just collateral damage from the failure of the HI-Winnipeg Downtowner hostel, which leased the Ellice Avenue building the Lo called home. Still, it's done -- at least, for now.

This is how it went on Saturday night, the last dance of the Lo Pub: less of a funeral, more of a wake. The vodka was gone by midnight, and so was the gin, and then the beer taps ran dry and wine bottles spilled their final splash of white. The final few hundred revellers finished off the bar, sipping shots of banana liqueur out of tall glasses. And they laughed, and hugged, and swapped stories about the place.

Then the clock struck 2 a.m., the Lo Pub sign came down and the dozen staff crammed into the kitchen to say their goodbyes. Eight hours later, Jonasson shoved the last of the venue's gear into a rented storage locker. Then he went home, and he cried, and he slept for 12 hours straight.

When he finally woke up, he had mail: from patrons, from employees, from bands across Canada who mourned the Lo. "The last few days, there's been such a deluge of support and love and care for me, for my staff, for the experience everyone had in that space," Jonasson says. "Really though, everybody's comments and calls have made the end bearable."

Truthfully though: barely so. When Jonasson closed up on Saturday, he left behind the first incarnation of a dream he'd held for a decade. Jonasson, a veteran musician, had no experience in the restaurant biz when he opened the pub in 2008. But he did have a vision of creating the space he'd always wanted to play in: warm, welcoming, a place that treated patrons well and made sure every musician got paid.

He was a little naive in the business ways, he admits now. Yet that dream was exactly what he made, over the course of so many 16-hour days. It took four years of his life, and four years' worth of sleep. Some weeks, he says with a laugh now, he barely saw his wife. But when crowds flocked to the Lo for the music, the pint or just the people -- it was all worth it. And everyone who loved the Lo knew Jack. After all, he was always there. "It had just become such a part of me, such a part of who I am," he says. "To have that end... well, it's a tough thing for me."

The Lo's legacy, such as it is, was written in sound. Jonasson rattles off a list of shows that defined the venue's musical mission: there was that wild Flaming Lips video spectacle, and the pub's first Pride party, and a pair of solo shows by Bryan Webb of The Constantines. "Oh," Jonasson adds, "and every night we did karaoke."

Yeah, the Lo was an eclectic place. Its vegan food was a hit -- you should have tried the mushroom-nut burger -- and its freewheeling music formula worked. Not just for bands and their fans, but for business: the pub started turning a profit after three months, Jonasson says, even while the hostel next door struggled to fill its 120 beds.

So when news of the hostel's woes broke and the place went up for sale, Jonasson hoped the Lo might work out a deal with the building's future owners. It wasn't to be: late last week, he learned the pub had to close. It was a "surreal" feeling, he said, "like a death in the family. A lot of 'why us' questions."

In the days since, he's had more time to reflect. "At the end of the day, the Lo Pub wasn't that space," he says. "I loved that space, but at the end of the day a space is just a space. What goes into it is what the real character of a place is.

"And this," he adds, and jabs his finger at the table, "is what I'm meant to do."

A promise, then, and a tacit answer to the question that trips off of every local music fan's lips: what comes next? Jonasson considers that for a moment. First, he says, he'll take some time to decompress. And then? "I feel an obligation to Winnipeg, and to the bands in Winnipeg... to this place I love more than any other city in the world," he says, and breaks into a coy grin.

"And I have a feeling... that things are going to work out just fine."

Stay tuned.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 G6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Drew Willy says team couldn't get anything going

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local- (Standup Photo). Watcher in the woods. A young deer peers from the forest while eating leaves by Cricket Drive in Assiniboine Park. A group of eight deer were seen in the park. 060508.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google