'The light is at the end of the tunnel:' Beer garden, restaurant on tap for opening this summer in Edmonton's core if COVID-19 restrictions allow

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Sipping an alcoholic beverage in a Downtown beer garden across the street from Rogers Place. Tapping along to live music in a New York City-inspired restaurant and entertainment venue.

These are some of the possibilities that entrepreneurs are hoping to make a reality in Edmonton this summer if COVID-19 restrictions are able to ease as vaccinations increase.

A new permanent beer garden is under construction in the Downtown core in the area of 104 Avenue and 101 Street. Dubbed The Backyard, the new outdoor venue featuring three shipping containers is set to be a permanent fixture attached to the graffiti-lined Vignettes building. Amos Kajner-Nonnekes, a partner with Vignettes, said his team was approached by a local company, inStreet Developers, looking for room Downtown to launch this outdoor experience and they were thrilled to jump on board to help design the space.

When it can open, Kajner-Nonnekes said Thursday the site will allow for Edmontonians to gather outdoors, sample beer from local breweries, enjoy local food, check out art installations and listen to entertainment during a summer concert series. The space can also be booked for private gatherings like weddings and will host recreation activities, including weekly yoga. It’s a new idea to Edmonton that Kajner-Nonnekes said will be a perfect way to welcome residents back Downtown this summer.

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“This is a concept that we hadn’t really seen before. It’s really fun, it brings a lot of art and vibrancy and I think it’s something that can really work in the future. We’ve seen over this kind of last year with COVID-19 that we need some more of these vibrant, outdoor spaces,” he told Postmedia. “I think it’s going to be a staple in the Downtown core for the next couple of years on a corner that really needed some colour and some love.”

An artist’s rendering of The Backyard, a planned new outdoor beer garden and entertainment space at 104 Avenue and 101 Street. (Supplied)
An artist’s rendering of The Backyard, a planned new outdoor beer garden and entertainment space at 104 Avenue and 101 Street. (Supplied) Photo by Supplied

Peter Stetsko, owner of inStreet Developers, said the idea was in the works prior to the pandemic but this summer is a great time to open. The Backyard was initially supposed to open over the May long weekend, but is now on pause until provincial restrictions ease.

“The need for it now I think is greater than ever,” Stetsko said in an interview with Postmedia. “We have a large space to work with to safely accommodate physical distancing requirements that we’re obviously operating in with COVID-19. It’s a space for people to unwind, connect and discover all things local.”

Further west, a restaurant paying homage to 1970s New York City is preparing to open its doors this summer at Jasper Avenue and 114 Street. Soho will be a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue when it can open to guests. Co-owner Chris Curtola said he’s optimistic they can open in July with limited restrictions on capacity and entertainment.

“The light is at the end of the tunnel. We can see it coming,” he said. “It’s going to happen pretty quick where people are going to remember how amazing it is to experience our city and to get back out there to the new normal, and get back to what people enjoy.”

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When these two new establishments are able to open and what limitations they could face will depend on the province’s COVID-19 restrictions. Outdoor dining on patios was shut down for at least three weeks on Monday. Premier Jason Kenney said dining indoors is unlikely to be allowed by the end of the month and that the easing of restrictions could be linked to Alberta’s vaccination rate. As of Wednesday, about 44 per cent of the province’s population has received at least one dose with more than two million doses administered.



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