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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