The Canadian Prairie ‘dive bar’ chain Leopold’s Tavern plans to open its second Winnipeg location on Academy Road this fall, building on its successful south Osborne joint that opened its doors in July 2018.
The new location, which is slated to open for business in early October if all goes according to plan, will be at the former home of the now-closed J. Fox’s Restaurant and Local at 414 Academy Rd. After J. Fox’s closed, Inferno’s Bistro opened its second location, Inferno’s on Academy, which occupied the space for six years until it closed last summer.
Michael Ash, the vice-president and chief brand officer for Leo’s Group, which operates all nine Leopold’s Taverns that are now spread across three provinces, said it wasn’t long after the brand came to Winnipeg they realized one location wouldn’t be enough.
"To be honest, we have absolutely fallen in love with Winnipeg. We have an amazing staff at our current south Osborne location and it wasn’t long after Osborne opened we knew we wanted to open more Leo’s locations in Winnipeg," Ash said.
"We have met so many cool, like-minded people, from business owners to customers and Winnipeg feels right to us based on our brand values. We look for potential locations that are in amazing neighbourhoods where we can be a part of the community. Being community-minded is first and foremost on our list and the River Heights area is just that."
Ash said Leo’s Group has been on the lookout for a second location for around eight months, but it wasn’t until a month ago their new building on Academy Road was secured.
In 2009, when the property was still home to J. Fox’s, there was pushback from Academy Road residents who said allowing a pub to operate a patio in the neighbourhood would be a noisy blight that would turn the area into a stretch rivaling the nightlife of Corydon Avenue. However, attempts by the residents to shut down the patio failed at city hall.
The new location was announced in a short social media post by Leopold’s Tavern Wednesday.
Leo’s ❤️ #Winnipeg !— Leopold's Tavern (@Leopoldstavern) May 29, 2019
So much that store #2 in Winnipeg will be opening in the fall of 2019 in the absolutely amazing River Heights neighbourhood on Academy road!
#leosacademy #seeyouatleos #leostavern #manitoba pic.twitter.com/lv4cQLqeOd
"We’re shooting for early October (for an opening) dependent on permitting, construction, etc. To note, there is a lot already in place in terms of washrooms and infrastructure that we will keep as we liked what was previously in place. Things like the wood floor," Ash said.
"Permitting, renovations and staffing will all have to happen before opening, obviously."
The second spot in Winnipeg will be the chain’s 10th location in total. There are seven locations in Saskatchewan and two in Alberta.
The first Leopold’s Tavern was opened in the spring of 2013 in downtown Regina "by a group of friends with nothing to lose," according to the brand’s website. They dedicated themselves to creating a space that could serve as a "classic juke box dive bar."
The chain is known for having "a bunch of junk on the walls" and allows customers to leave their mark by tacking things up.
"So what exactly is Leopold’s Tavern you might ask? It’s open to interpretation... It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s your local haunt, your clubhouse, a place to celebrate, your second home, your getaway, a part of your community, or even your place of work," the brand’s website reads.
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