Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bar Streets

Picture of Sixth Street bar scene in Austin, Texas

It started off with a contribution to the Free Press. It garnered many responses including one from Gail Asper.

The gist of the article is why weren't there any "bar streets" in Winnipeg. Several streets around North America are mentioned.

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.

Bar streets don't happen in a vacuum. They come as a result of a desire of certain businesses wanting to cluster together and zoning allowing that to happen.

But where can that happen in Winnipeg? Well, in a city dominated by cars, it has to be a place with a lot of parking. It also has to be in a place where each of the bars is in close proximity to one another and feed off the excitement that crowds generate. Lastly, it has to be in a place that has a central attraction that create a lot of foot traffic.

The only place I can think of is downtown Winnipeg, specifically Portage Avenue Here's why:

Lots of parking.
Lots of space for restaurants and bars.
The MTS Centre.

Despite the fact that the MTS Centre has been around for a few years, it really only has Moxies and Tavern United in close proximity. This despite the fact that on some weekends, it can attract 60,000 people if three large shows happen. Father down each end of Portage are a few more restaurants and bars but there is very little cohesiveness to it all. Blush Ultra Club has been a bar location for a year. At 19,000 square feet and capacity of 1000 people, it never has been able to attract a counterpart where real club competition might happen.

On the southside of Portage in 2008, the Rinkside Restaurant and Bar opened up. It is a fairly small location but does add something for the eatery and sports mad fans in the area.

The need for a few more sports bars would go a long way too attracting even more people to the area prior to hockey and curling events.

So what can be done to attract more businesses to the area to create a true bar street?

I think the answer lies with Centre Venture. It should target a few empty buildings along Portage Avenue and call for tenders for restaurants and bars. At the moment, they are trying to do an office/condo combo for some Portage Avenue buildings but it just hasn't taken off.

The store front aspect should be focused on first and then the upper floors are likely to attract businesses who would welcome the hustle and bustle.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009


I was going to mention this back a while ago but this seems to be the first opportunity to do so. USA Today no longer comes to the city. Shortly after the paper started, USA Today boxes could be found throughout the city. Don't know how long they lasted but it was years. After they were removed, the paper was available at some 7/elevens as well as the major book stores. No more. Since March of 2009, you cannot find a USA Today in any of the traditional stores. I have not tried Dominion News but you can't get it at McNally or Chapters.

USA Today content on the web includes all their print material but it is not the same as sitting reading the paper with its bright photos and great illustrations. I still think their mapping of the Inaugural in Washington showed how superior a newspaper is for some things.

USA Today often writes stories others don't cover which makes it an interesting paper. Back in early April, they wrote a story on Berkshares, a plan were local communities print their own paper currency during hard times.

The principle of the idea is that businesses and individuals form a group whereby they pay for a local currency at a discounted level. Usually that is around 5%. In other words, a person pay .95 cents for a currency worth $1.00 in local stores.

Under the BerkShares system, a buyer goes to one of 12 banks and pays $95 for $100 worth of BerkShares, which can be spent in 370 local businesses. Since its start in 2006, the system, the largest of its kind in the country, has circulated $2.3 million worth of BerkShares. In Detroit, three business owners are printing $4,500 worth of Detroit Cheers, which they are handing out to customers to spend in one of 12 shops.

This has been advertised as a good thing for small towns but why not a city like Winnipeg?

The Downtown Biz already has the Blue Loony program but you only get a $1 coin after spending $20 worth of services. It is good for parking, transit or a number of businesses. I don't know if someone buys a dinner of over $100 whether they receive $10 coins. My understanding of it is no.

Interesting program for what it is worth. Would love to see it in Winnipeg.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Roblin Boulevard 5

There have been a couple of business closing on Roblin as it passes through old Charleswood.

McIntyre's Meats went out of business suddenly in March. It is a shame. The business replaced Norman's Meats which went bankrupt about two years ago. McIntyre's showed well, the price was great, they had some great cuts of meat and some very yummy salads including Greek and pasta salads which I often mixed together.

Sangster's closed this April. It was a healthfood business and had been there a while.

Kel's Crease, a sporting goods place in the building that holds the 7/11 shut down at the end of last year. Something is about to move in as there is paper over the windows.

The Charleswood Hotel is coming down piece by piece. Kind of sad really.

One of the large open spaces that opened to a new business was at old Charleswood Daycare Center. That business went down when it was revealed that a pedophile was connected to it around 2005. The space stayed empty for a long time but is now occupied by a Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery center. I will reveal more about this in another update.

The former Books and Crannies on North Roblin is now Globosapiens. Still mean to get in there at some time.

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