JUNOS value to London? Try $12 million to start
After three years, the renovation is almost complete and the Union Ten distillery in London's Old East Village will soon be ready to serve its first glass of small-batch whisky.
Inside, there is exposed brick, a long bar wrapped in copper cladding and reclaimed wood windows. The space is bursting with the kind of cool factor you'd expect to find in Toronto's Queen Street West neighbourhood.
And while the drams and decor will be a big draw, equally important to partner Brendan Phoenix's launch plans is a tie-in to London's hosting of the JUNO awards.
The bar is one of 15 London venues in JUNO Fest, a special part of JUNO week where 100 different bands play in clubs, pubs and theatres across the city on Friday and Saturday.
"It works out perfectly for us," said Phoenix during an interview with CBC News that was at times interrupted by the sound of drills and saws. "It ties in nicely for our opening and it's just a good way to create a buzz with a new business."
Saturday's show will feature JUNO-nominee Dizzy (alternative album of the year) while Friday's show features The Deep Dark Woods, whose Yarrow album is nominated for the year's best contemporary roots album.
Though the bar isn't yet officially open, the JUNO shows will serve as a pop-up for Union Ten, creating the kind of boost many London businesses are hoping to cash in on during JUNO week.
Chris Campbell of the JUNO host committee says $12 million is generally accepted as the economic boost a host city can expect. But he said those benefits are amplified in a mid-sized city like London.
"I think it's almost priceless for the 11th largest city in Canada to be showcasing itself along with the Torontos and the Vancouvers," said Campbell.
"You have these unique neighbourhoods like Old East Village and Old South and people will explore, they'll check out our local artists and restaurants," he said. "There's a great vibe in London. We're looking forward to welcoming everybody."
Here Chris Campbell of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JUNOSLdn?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JUNOSLdn</a> host committee introduces JUNOHouse, a pop-up in Old East Village <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OEV?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OEV</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LdnOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LdnOnt</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JUNOS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JUNOS</a>. Check it out at 658 Dundas St. E. <a href="https://t.co/WPM76IzF9z">pic.twitter.com/WPM76IzF9z</a>—@AndrewLuptonCBC
Downtown gearing up
Janette MacDonald of Downtown London said the merchants are already feeling a bit of a JUNO boost.
Some businesses, like Jill's Table on King Street, have created JUNO-themed store fronts and MacDonald is hearing that restaurants are booked solid for this weekend.
"I don't think we're going to realize how big it is until it's happened and we're taking a look in the rear-view mirror," she said. "I've been to other JUNOs and it's very big. In a mid-size city like London, it takes over."
Hotels fully booked
Dave Bartlam of the Delta London Armouries said all 220 guest rooms are booked through the weekend and extra staff have been called in.
"It's all hands on deck," he said. When rooms open up because someone cancels a booking, he said the room is filled up "within minutes."
Dundas Place debut
Savanah Sewell, manager of Dundas Place, said businesses along Dundas Street are hoping the JUNOS, combined with the new flex street, will lead to steady sales.
"It's certainly feeling like there's a buzz, people are excited," she said. Sewell has spoken to many business owners who are adding staff to ensure they can handle the extra volume.
"I think it's really starting to resonate with people that it's happening," she said.
The strip of Dundas west of Richmond Street was transformed into a flex street last year. A cobble stone surface was added and the curbs removed so Dundas can be closed to vehicle traffic for special events.
Though not an official JUNO event, Friday's Fanshawe Live at Dundas Place is timed to catch some JUNO traffic and will serve as the new flex street's debut.
From noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, bands will play at an outdoor stage while others will perform inside at the Chef's Table restaurant.
"I think it's a great opportunity to showcase the street," said Sewell. "National eyes are here from other places. It's an incredible opportunity for us. The timing is great."
MacDonald said she believes London will see the economic benefits of hosting the JUNOS long after the last award is handed out Sunday at Budweiser Gardens.
"I think we'll create enough interest that people will want to come back again," she said. "And that's really the ongoing benefit of these big events, it's not what happens at the time, it's what happens after and the awareness it builds."