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Brew-pub entrepreneur abandons 4Play

Hoping to reach deal on another spot downtown

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Darren Wanless, standing earlier this year in the former 4Play Sports Bar, says his plan to open a brew pub there has changed.

JESSICA BURTNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Darren Wanless, standing earlier this year in the former 4Play Sports Bar, says his plan to open a brew pub there has changed. Photo Store

Beer lovers longing for a pint from Winnipeg's first brew pub in more than a decade are going to have to wait a little longer.

Entrepreneur Darren Wanless decided to walk away from a conditional lease for the old 4Play sports bar across the street from the MTS Centre. He had planned to open Portage Ave. BrewWorks & Kitchen in December.

"It wasn't fitting with our vision and what we were wanting out of the location. Our landlord wasn't living up to his conditions, either," he said.

'It wasn't fitting with our vision and what we were wanting out of the location' -- entrepreneur Darren Wanless

But while he'll likely have to change the name of his brew pub, he's hoping to finalize a deal for another location downtown or in the Exchange District as early as next week.

"Ultimately, we want to get the best location for the business. We don't want to settle. Even though (the 4Play) location was what we were hoping for before, we couldn't get the final word from the engineers if the brewery would fit in the building," he said.

Wanless has already hired a brewmaster from another province and his brewing equipment is due to arrive this week.

Bernie Cheater, the landlord of 323 Portage Ave. and former owner of 4Play, said he was very disappointed Wanless won't be moving in with his new concept.

"He got cold feet. I'm still shaking my head. I was going to participate in owning part of (the brew pub) because I was so sure it was a good location and a good fit," he said.

Wanless said it's unfortunate things didn't work out to be so close to the busiest sports and entertainment venue in town, but if his deal closes (this) week, he'll still be near the MTS Centre.

"The arena isn't the only reason why we wanted to be downtown. Ultimately, we want to be central for the city," he said.

Wanless caught the brew-pub bug in the late 1990s when River City Brewing opened in Osborne Village.

It closed after a short run, but he kept waiting for somebody else to fill the void. Then, a couple of years ago, he made the "mistake" of telling his business partner, Lovett Lewis, about his brew-pub dreams and he convinced him to do it.

Cheater's plan was to have Wanless take over 11,000 square feet of the former 4Play space, leaving another 5,000 square feet for a financial institution, rumoured to be TD Bank. That deal hasn't gone smoothly, either, and Cheater said if he receives any offers to take over all of the space, he would strongly consider them.

"The bank is taking forever. I'm kind of tired (of the delay). We're going to rethink it all," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2013 B5

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