After five years The Carleton Bar & Grill (1685 Argyle Street) is getting a makeover, but the changes aren’t only skin deep.
This week brought not just the news that the bar would be closed until Friday for renovations, but that Mike Campbell—a partial owner of the business from the get-go—had taken over majority ownership. After a hard-fought battle running The Carleton by committee in an “economic climate that’s insane, and a business that’s even more insane”, the longtime music scene fixture stepped up to the plate and accepted an offer to buy out some of his partners.
“I pretty much have all my eggs in one basket. I believe the city is going to come back. It’s been to the brink but I'm seeing cranes in the air, residential development, downtown living, all these signs that the economy may pick up,” says Campbell. “Maybe they’ll build a ship someday, maybe there will be high paying jobs out here...maybe the city will become what I always though it could become. The last thing on earth I would want would be to fall down as soon as that stuff happens.”
Campbell’s first orders of business were giving the space a facelift—cozying things up a bit with banquette seating and new lighting—and putting some careful consideration into the menu. He says while they bar hasn’t struggled in terms of earning its reputation as a quality live music venue, the restaurant side of the business could use a revamp. “The food is really good but people just don't know about it. So I thought I’d reach out to somebody that did a really great job on that side.”
That somebody is Jane Wright (of jane’s on the common, but you knew that already). She’ll share her expertise as a menu consultant, bringing suggestions to the table along with some of her products, desserts and hopefully her famous brunch, too. Campbell says the goal is to launch the new food lineup in the next month or so, including a transplanted version of the line-up-worthy jane's brunch.
“If it was just me I'd probably be more frightened than I am. But it's amazing watching people help build and clean up,” says Campbell, who on top of his reliable Carleton staff has recruited restaurant and entertainment scene veteran—and friend of 40-plus years—Gord Lapp as the bar’s new GM.
“I’ve risked pretty much everything, but I know the second phase will be better than the first. And the first one wasn't bad.”
The Carleton re-opens this Friday night.