Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 16/11/2014 (2095 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two more pubs featuring live entertainment -- one a locally conceived concept and the other part of a national chain -- have opened their doors in the city within the last few weeks.
St. James Tap and Table, a 300-seat pub that opened Oct. 31 in the former Dylan O'Connor location at 2609 Portage Ave., is owned by Billabong Gastropub co-owner Mike Alfred and five other local investors.
"We're a blue-collar, working-class kind of city, and I think that's what we delivered," Alfred said. "It's casual and unpretentious... with a focus is on great food and live entertainment, especially original music."
Alfred, who is the primary owner, said the plan is to feature live bands Thursday through Saturday, and maybe on a couple of other weekdays, depending on the availability of talent.
The other new addition to Winnipeg's nightlife is the city's first Fionn MacCool's Irish pub franchise. It opened for business Oct. 27 at 1583 Regent Ave. W., and is owned by Paul Belanger, who was a longtime chef for Earl's Restaurants.
A spokesman for the Fionn MacCool's chain's parent company -- Ontario-based Cara Operations Ltd. -- said it's the first of up to five new Fionn MacCool's pubs the chain hopes to open in Winnipeg over the next seven years.
"Winnipeg is a great market for us," said Alex Gerzon, Cara's vice-president of franchising. "Our plan is to build three to five Fionn MacCool's (in the city)."
Gerzon said the exact number will depend on finding the right franchisees and the right locations. The other areas the chain is eyeing include the downtown, Polo Park and St. Vital.
If the right opportunity presents itself, Fionn MacCool's might also open an outlet in Brandon, Gerzon said, noting Cara has a Montana's Cookhouse there that is doing well.
"So it's definitely another market we would look at."
Like St. James Tap and Table, Fionn MacCool's features live entertainment on the weekends. Gerzon said the focus will be on bands that play Irish or Celtic music.
"But we'll also have some Top 40 cover bands."
The liquor menu boasts nearly 40 types of beer, 31 whiskies, 20 varieties of wine and a wide selection of traditional cocktails. The food menu features strictly in-house-made meals.
"We pride ourselves in having a good food program that is a notch above a traditional pub," said Grant Cobb, Cara's senior vice-president of casual brands.
Traditional favourites include things like lamb pie, rossiare lamb shank and maple cider salmon.
Alfred said St. James Tap and Table, which will hold its official grand opening on Nov. 21, also makes everything on site, including all of the breads and sauces used in the meals.
Asked why he and his partners wanted to feature live entertainment, Alfred said that earlier in his career, he worked for a couple of highly successful pubs in Canmore, Alta., that featured live bands.
"The root of this idea comes from my time out there. I really enjoyed the entertainment and the whole atmosphere. It was one of the best places I ever worked at," he said. "A large part of it is also my own personal passion for it."
He said a live-entertainment venue also seems like a natural fit for the Winnipeg market.
"Manitoba and Winnipeg have a very good talent pool right now and that was another factor in the decision to go this way. Winnipeg is also getting more and more of a reputation as a place for bands to come to."
Alfred said they hope to feature a mix of local and out-of-town bands, with an emphasis on blues and rock music "and a bit of country."
He said he and his partners originally looked at opening a pub in the Exchange District "but it just didn't quite work out there."
But he also really likes the Portage Avenue location because there aren't a lot of neighbourhood-style pubs, especially ones featuring live bands, in that part of the city.
Alfred said the partners spent about $1 million on redeveloping the interior of the building.
"It's a completely new building on the inside," he said, and it features a high-quality sound system and a stage that's designed for bands.
Although he and his partners only lease the space, Alfred said he felt it was worth spending that kind of money on renovations because they plan to be there for many years.
"My plan is for this to become a Winnipeg institution..."
St. James Tap and Table and Fionn MacCool's are among three new live entertainment venues that have opened in the city in the last month or so. The other is the GW -- that's short of the Goodwill -- which opened Nov. 3 in the former Pop Soda's Coffeehouse & Gallery space at 625 Portage Avenue. It's one of a number of local venues that feature live music every day of the week.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.
Updated on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6:40 AM CST: Replaces photo
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