Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/4/2009 (3837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The bar scene in Winnipeg is bad compared to other major (and even very small) cities in North America, and it's time the city did something about it. Practically every large city in Canada and America has a bar street, and they typically draw a large crowd of young people. For those who have never been out of Winnipeg — Pembina and Corydon are not bar streets... not even close.
A bar street is one street, usually not all that long (a couple hundred yards), that is designed like a normal street for cars and possibly expanded for heavy pedestrian traffic with bars (and restaurants, pubs, clubs, whatever) literally next door to one another where people can walk up and down the street looking for fun on any given night.
Winnipeg city council should construct a bar street, which could possibly be a part of a larger business district with a provision whereby any establishment built and operating on this one particular street must serve alcohol (and food) to some degree, ideally aimed at university students and young adults.
The first advantage of a bar street in the city, ideally close to the University of Manitoba, is that it would attract students and young adults. It would be something they could go out to — just go to the street and check out a few bars or pubs and people could find places that suit their tastes. A bar street could also entice young adults to stay in Winnipeg instead of leaving for the bigger and more attractive cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.
Writing this I find myself (from Manitoba and having lived in Winnipeg the past four years) realizing that there is nothing in this city I can take pride in. Seriously, is there anything in Winnipeg that is cool? Stop and think about that.
When friends come to town and ask you to go out and show them a good time are you slightly embarrassed. A lively and attractive bar street could be that something to take pride in. The bar street could also contribute to the culture of Winnipeg, acting as a catalyst for ethnic and local drinking establishments to appear and be seen weekly by thousands of people.
Another advantage of a bar street in the city would be the boost to the local economy. All the taxes these businesses would pay to the city would definitely be a boost, not to mention the jobs that would be created for bartenders and cooks at these new establishments. As well, the recent stimulus package for construction projects across Canada could be used somewhat to aid in the cost of paving and zoning a street or district in the near future.
A subsequent and extremely beneficial perk of a bar street is that it would increase the social interactions between young Winnipeggers. Given that people would walk up and down the street — and not drive — they would have a good chance of running into people they knew, and possibly hanging out or going for a drink together. People taking in the bar street would also have a greater chance of making more friends and interacting with patrons in a festive and party-like atmosphere that would encourage social interaction.
This is an advantage that, although subjective and impossible to measure, would increase the ability of people to socialize with one another. This would also help reduce the car culture that is so predominant in Winnipeg.
Finally a great bar street could radically change the reputation of this city. The general perception of Winnipeg to outsiders is that it is somewhat of a dreary and lacklustre city, with extremely cold winters and little entertainment or nightlife. It seems to me that this is generally true.
One thing we can try to combat on this perception is that there is not much to do. If Winnipeg had a cool bar street there would always be something to do: "Let's go for a cruise down Kindersley Street" or Riel Avenue or Coast Street or whatever. This is our chance to create something that could draw people (say to the best party city in Canada) for a vacation; people may actually choose to come here. Young adults of rural Manitoba I'm sure would come to the city more often. We could have something great like Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, or Electric Avenue in Calgary, or like many of the great college towns in the U.S .and Europe.
A bar street is something that could really add to this city, even if it had to be artificially constructed at the beginning by the city council. So let's do this now. Let's do this right, the economics can work.
Jeff Schellenberg is a film student at the University of Manitoba.