The owners of the city's first craft-beer pub plan to open another one this fall they say will boast the largest selection of beer on tap in Canada.
FB Hospitality, the Winnipeg-based restaurant development and management company that opened a Barley Brothers craft-beer pub last fall in the former Kelsey's Restaurant on Empress Street, now plans to open an even bigger Barley Brothers this fall in the former Earl's Restaurant on Pembina Highway.
Local restaurateur Noel Bernier, who is president of both FB Hospitality and Barley Brothers, said the new outlet will carry twice as many craft-beer and microbrewery brands as the one on Empress Street -- more than 140 in total.
It will also feature a two-storey, glass-walled cooler displaying the kegs in which the beers are stored.
"When you walk into this place, it's going to say to you: beer!" Bernier said during a recent interview.
The new outlet will be called Barley Brothers Stadium because of its close proximity to the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium on the University of Manitoba campus. Bernier said this one will be larger than the first one, with a seating capacity of 240 in the pub/restaurant and 120 on the outdoor patio. That compares with 180 seats inside and 60 outside at the Empress Street location.
The menu will be similar, with a focus on "Prairie comfort foods" such as burgers, steaks, fried chicken, perogies and bratwurst sausages. But there will also be pizzas and a few other new items that go well with beer, he added.
"It (the first Barley Brothers pub) was a brand-new concept and we've learned a lot," he explained. "The response has been good, but... we want to really improve the experience so it's a fuller craft-beer experience."
FB Hospitality takes possession of the building on July 1. The plan is to completely remodel the building, inside and out, and open as Barley Brothers Stadium by mid-September. Bernier admits that's a tall order, but one they hope is doable.
He said he and his business partners in FB Hospitality felt the time was right to open a second craft-beer pub in the city. The two areas they looked at were southwest Winnipeg and Regent-Lagimodiere. There was nothing suitable in the Regent-Lagimodiere area, he said, and in their minds, this was easily the best available location in the southwest quadrant.
"There is just a tremendous amount of development going on along the Bishop Grandin corridor," he said, "and this is right on the corner of Bishop Grandin and Pembina, which makes it easily accessible for anyone who lives along there."
That view is shared by Michael Stronger, a retail sales and leasing specialist with Shindico Realty Inc. and the agent who helped FB Hospitality find the new location.
"We did a thorough review of the options (in southwest Winnipeg) and the opportunity to get into a free-standing building at the corner of Bishop Grandin and Pembina, with access off of Pembina, is rare," he said. "It's one of the busiest intersections in Winnipeg and it offers easy access to all of south Winnipeg."
Stronger said the location also gives Barley Brothers easy access to a few key business generators, including the new stadium and the U of M campus, with all of its staff, students and on-campus businesses.
Although a limited number of events is held each year at the stadium, Stronger said it's still a big deal for a pub or restaurant to be affiliated with a major local sports entity such as the Bombers (Barley Brothers sponsors the team's 13th-man, flag-raising ceremony that honours the fans at each home game).
"Once you become a place to go before a sporting event and a place to go after a sporting event, people will also go there to watch a sporting event. It becomes habitual."
He also noted Pembina Highway is still one of the city's main north-south thoroughfares and remains an important retail strip.
"I would suggest Pembina Highway is having a resurgence. There are not a lot of (commercial) vacancies on Pembina Highway."
Although the Earl's location sat vacant for nearly a year, Stronger said it wasn't because of a lack of interest.
"There were a number of national restaurant chains that were interested in the location, but they couldn't make the size work. In some cases, it was a little too big, and in some cases it was a little too small."
But for Bernier & Co., it was just right.
Bernier said Barley Brothers gets its craft beers from microbreweries all over North America, including two here in Manitoba -- Half Pints Brewing and Fort Garry Brewing.
With the growing popularity of craft beers in North America -- Bernier said there are now more than 5,000 microbreweries operating in North America churning out more than 25,000 different brands of craft beer -- he and his partners think there's room in the Winnipeg market for two more Barley Brothers outlets. One could be in the Regent and Lagimodiere area and the other might be in the downtown.
"But our only focus right now is on this location," he added.
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