Even in hard-up Calgary, where the oil shock has hammered the restaurant and entertainment scene particularly hard, the renewal of the historic Bay building downtown by Toronto-based Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants has received the warmest western welcome. In its first expansion outside southern Ontario, the restaurant and event company took over a significant part of the main floor, basement and top floor of a century-old retail landmark to launch a stunning new eatery (The Guild) with a bar and patio that spills under the portico onto the busy Stephen Avenue Mall, a cocktail lounge (Sub Rosa) and, most recently, a venue for big gatherings called The Hudson. Meanwhile, the department store has shrunk its footprint and retreated into the remaining space.
The changes are all part of a broad partnership between Oliver & Bonacini and the Bay that started in 2012 with the establishment of a restaurant, in-house bakery and event space at the retailer’s Toronto Queen Street store. Plans are being discussed for other prime Bay locations across the country, too. The Calgary project, with its Mounties-inspired art, rustic leather furniture and hardwood floors, is a tribute to Western Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Co. as one of the country’s nation builders, says Andrew Oliver, Oliver & Bonacini’s CEO, president and major shareholder. “We wanted to let you know that you are in one of the great cities in Canada and we wanted the design to reflect that,” he says.
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