Edmonton

Owner of Knoxville's, The Pint, behind 2 proposed downtown 'mega-bars'

The proponent for two new "mega-bars" proposed for downtown Edmonton is the company that owns Knoxville's Tavern and The Pint.

'I can’t imagine any community in Edmonton welcoming something of this size and scale,' Scott McKeen says

One of the nightclubs is planned to go into the main floor of the Fox 2 condominium, which is now under construction at the corner of 104th Street and 102nd Avenue. (CBC)

The proponent for two new "mega-bars" proposed for downtown Edmonton is the company that owns Knoxville's Tavern and The Pint. 

Mark Fitton and his company Urban Sparq want to open two bars. One, with a maximum occupancy of 596 people, is proposed for the ground floor of the Fox 2 condominium building, under construction on the corner of 104th Street and 102nd Avenue.

The other bar is proposed for the former location of Mother's Music at 109th Street and 103rd Avenue, with a maximum capacity of 1,400 people.

Letters to residents near the Fox 2 project were sent by Fitton's designer, CK Design Associates, but did not include his name. 

The projects have come under criticism for being too large for the area.

But Fitton told CBC News that venues that size are needed once the downtown arena opens this fall. He said a pub the size of Kelly's, which holds about 100 people, won't be large enough. He said the bars won't hold as many people as outlined in the plans. 

Edmonton city Coun. Scott McKeen said the plans are "ridiculous" and out of touch with the overall vision. 

"This is like dropping a neutron bomb on 104th Street, as far as changing the character and feel of the place," McKeen said. "I'm getting emails left, right and center on this one, and I completely agree with people's concerns. It doesn't fit."

The bar on 104th Street would be 7,439 sq. feet in size, a development McKeen said is nothing like a "neighbourhood pub" and wouldn't fit on a street currently filled with smaller restaurants and wine bars of about 100 or fewer seats.

This is like dropping a neutron bomb on 104th Street, as far as changing the character and feel of the place.- Councillor Scott McKeen

As for the club on 109th Street, McKeen said that area has reached a "gag point" with hospitality development.

"To suggest another 1,400 seats there is ridiculous," he said. "I can't imagine any community in Edmonton welcoming something of this size and scale."

Despite the hospitality development underway in the Ice District nearby, McKeen said the downtown core needs to be seen as having distinct districts. The city has invested in 104th Street to create an "urban street" with "urban experiences," he said, and adding a mega-bar wouldn't fit with the area.

City accepting feedback until July 19

The city's chief planner Peter Ohm said bars and nightclubs with 100 seats or fewer are currently permitted in the area, and approval of anything more than 100 seats would be a "discretionary" decision.

He said the city is talking with the applicant, and they will work over the next several weeks with area residents and businesses, as well as the hospitality industry and police, to discuss the impact of the proposed bars, which have not yet been named.

"The balance that we've got to find here is trying to inject some vibrancy, trying to get fuller utilization of under-utilized sites," Ohm said. "But yet not get to a point where we've passed something in a tipping point that says we're now impacting the surrounding area, which includes residents."

The city is accepting feedback from residents and businesses until July 19. Fitton said he also plans to hold consultations. 

The decision to approve or deny the mega-bars would remain with administration and would not go to council, because it is not a zoning decision.

McKeen said city council had to place a cap on the number of seats allowed in Whyte Avenue developments a few years ago, and said that's something council may have to look at doing with the downtown area.

"I'm sort of hoping we don't have to get there," he said. "I'm sort of hoping we'll have reasonable, contextual proposals come forward from now on."

With files from Laura Osman