Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Here's hoping

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A new restaurant with a French accent will open soon on Esplanade Riel, replacing the venerable Salisbury House that occupied the location since the pedestrian bridge over the Red River was completed in 2004.

By all accounts, the new establishment -- Chez Sophie -- could be a huge success. The St. Boniface pizzeria and bistro has some French dishes and bilingual staff, but more important, it has a reputation for serving excellent food.

Of course the same general optimism was expressed when Salisbury House opened its little red roof on the bridge. Sure, it wasn't a high-end, destination restaurant, but it had a proven menu and excellent brand awareness.

The biggest attraction, of course, was the wonderful view from the bridge overlooking St. Boniface and The Forks, and now the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. How could it fail?

Well, it turned out there was more to operating a restaurant than a room with a view. The Sals needed a break on its costs, but the city wisely decided instead to look for a new operator.

The new owners are hoping their unique menu and a few renovations will make the difference, but only time will tell if enough Winnipeggers are prepared to park their cars a distance away and walk the extra steps to the restaurant's door. Perhaps the opening of the museum next year will be make the difference between success and failure.

But if it turns out that the menu, good as it may be, is not worth the trip, then it could be the final attempt to make the space work as a restaurant on the only inhabited bridge in Canada.

In that event, it would be back to the drawing board.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2013 A10

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