The evidence is mounting: Culture and art are no longer fringe players in the Edmonton entertainment and hospitality scene.
There was a day when a cool glass of beer (stylish in its Oiler-christened pint glass) and a 19-inch TV hung precariously from the ceiling were all it took to enter the nightclub scene. Oh yes, and a fresh coat of paint – covering just enough drywall to pass for refinement in the low lights of the late-night crowd.
New paint is still a key ingredient, but it is now being applied by creative individuals who treat the work of designing and branding an establishment like bona fide business.
The demise of the long-time anchor in Edmonton’s night scene, Barry T’s, opened the door for a fresh infusion of thought and design. The Standard is a product of the efforts of owner Mike Yasinski (owner of The Armoury and co-founder of Century Grill) and Woleski Design Group’s Chris Kourouniotis.
|Kenton Friesen photos, Business Edge|
|The Standard nightclub, as viewed from the DJ booth, boasts Skyreach Centre-style video screens for high-octane visual entertainment.|
Step into the new club, open to the public since April 9, and you step into Las Vegas – or as close as a $650,000 makeover can bring you.
“The design elements play a big part in a successful business,” says Yasinski. “It’s one of the top three things – service, staff and design. People are always looking for something new. The design can be a determining factor in the business as an edge over your competitors.”
While some clubs in the city battle it out with drink specials and deals, The Standard is relying on its image to attract its targeted niche of 21- to 35-year-olds who don’t mind paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
“We’re not selling discount drinks here, we’ve got a premium product, hence we can charge a premium price,” says Yasinski. “People aren’t going to question the price because it’s all sort of relevant.”
“We took (design) to the other level and implemented a bunch of great new ideas. And the formula is definitely working. (There is) a growing appreciation for design and style and marketing and branding.”
|The Diesel Bar, the designer’s favorite, features a funky table top.|
Leaving the design work to a designer has helped bring the goals into a cohesive vision, giving the club distinction not only from other clubs in the city, but from the former club that occupied the space (owned by the Kenham family).
“Because I grew up in Edmonton . . . and I grew up in the Barry T’s scene, I didn’t want it to look like Barry T’s,” says Kourouniotis.
“I did my best to make sure nobody comes in and says: ‘Uh, it’s the same thing as Barry T’s. All they did was painted it.’ ”
The design and implementation process was condensed to the period from January 27 to the beginning of April, forcing the designers to work weekends to get the job done.
In the centre of the club is a miniature version of the centre screens at Skyreach Centre. The screens are designed to add a visual complement to the aggressive sound package.
Deep-pocketed booths shoulder the dance floor, hypothetically easing the transition from passive to active mode.
Four distinct bars form the perimeter, each with its own design elements. The Benz bar is decked in black slate and prepped for the elite.
The Chick bar sports a 32-foot ice bar, long by anyone’s standards. Kourouniotis’s favourite is the Diesel bar, with its multiple-circle table top and strategic lighting.
Red plexiglass covering tube lighting illuminates the walls and hints of the same can be found in a number of the bars.
Yasinski says the club should have a 10-year life, with a re-invention due in about five years.
A Canadian-themed pub dubbed Hudson’s Tap House will be open for business one month from now, occupying the space where Barry T’s lounge used to be.
It will be run as a completely separate entity, catering to a different crowd – but run out of the same kitchen, with the same owner and designer.
Admittedly, northern Alberta is accustomed to taking design cues from down south, so it’s a cheeky irony that some franchises branded in Edmonton are adding new flavour to the design meccas of Canada and the U.S. Booster Juice, a phenom of a business out of Sherwood Park, had its look designed by the Woleski firm, and their brand of purple and yellow is smoothly flowing south and east. The firm continues to work out the esthetic details of each new store added to the chain.
Extreme Pita is another franchised look from the Edmonton company. The alternative fast-food outlets are an example of the ‘fast casual’ image – an image that Kourouniotis sees as gaining in popularity.
Fast food isn’t working any more, because the minute you see it, you associate it with a deep fryer, says Kourouniotis.
These days, customers in Edmonton are asking for high-quality hospitality venues as urbanization continues to paint the town.