Anchor Bar may put Jackson Square on wing-lovers map

Buffalo chicken wing franchise aims to help downtown revitalization with 120 new jobs.

The buffalo chicken wing franchise chose Hamilton for first Canadian location

Anchor Bar invented the chicken wing in 1964. (Flannery Dean/CBC)

Could buffalo wings be the key to getting Jackson Square back on the map? That's what some are hoping.

Anchor Bar, an American chain restaurant specializing in chicken wings, is opening its first location North of the border in downtown Hamilton this Friday.

"Things are booming here … there's a good vibe," said David Copperthwaite, Anchor Bar's co-owner.

He said the company did market research before settling on Hamilton, and was encouraged by the amount of downtown development happening.

The Anchor Bar will replace the old Waltz Live Music in Jackson Square. The site has undergone a full renovation.

Along with increased traffic in the core, the restaurant brings jobs and professional American-style service to Steel City.

Of the 120 employees hired, Copperthwaite said about three-quarters are from Hamilton. He says he hired extra wait staff — "one waiter to two tables" — to ensure a high quality of attention and service.

Copperthwaite said the restaurant chose Jackson Square because of its proximity to Copps Coliseum, the Sheraton Hotel and the nearby offices filled with thousands of hungry downtown workers.

"There are 4,200 people that work in the towers here; it was a no-brainer," he said.

It seems Hamiltonians are already excited to gnaw on Anchor Bar's famous wings.

"People have been tweeting like crazy about Anchor Bar coming here."

Jackson Square becoming service centre

"What Anchor Bar means to Jackson Square is a destination location," said Jocelyn Mainville, leasing manager for Jackson Square.

"We're not a fashion centre, we've become a service centre [for the people who work and live downtown]," she said.

For Mainville, the Nations grocery store that is expected to open in this spring is another example of how Jackson Square will better serve the needs of the downtown community and "keep people here after 5 p.m."

The presence of a well-known American franchise may also encourage people to frequent downtown Hamilton, said Glen Norton, the city's manager of Urban Renewal Planning & Economic Development Department.

"It's a name people recognize," he said. "They're pretty big guys in Buffalo. They know what they're doing and they've chosen to put their first location in Hamilton."

Norton said the revitalization of downtown is an ongoing process. In 10 years time, he said the area will be even more vibrant.

"You're going to see a lot more of everything: more jobs, more people living in condos and all of the cultural amenities that go with it."

Anchor Bar will officially open Feb. 1 at lunch when Mayor Bob Bratina will toss the first wing into the fryer, said Copperthwaite.