One of Winnipeg’s most iconic music venues is set to finally re-open after years of uncertainty.
The bar at the historic Royal Albert Arms Hotel was shuttered after a string of ownership controversies and aborted attempts at re-opening, before finally going up for mortgage auction in 2017.
The 106-year-old hotel has a special reputation within Winnipeg’s music community as a gritty mainstay for punk rock, metal and other independent music scenes. The venue also hosted now-legendary touring artists like Green Day and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) before their international success.
The club was the subject of a documentary film, Call to Arms: The Story of the Royal Albert, a decade ago, in which its legendary status is confirmed by local, national and international artists, who talk about the beloved venue’s mystique – with many comparing it favourably to New York City’s infamous rock n’ roll mecca, CBGB’s.
That edgy mystique was due, in part, to the low-income housing above the bar, which was the site of a grisly 2003 murder that captivated Winnipeggers.
Things have certainly changed since then, however.
The ‘new’ Albert – now operated by Colleen Swifte, owner of Alycia’s Ukrainian Catering – is relaunching Friday as the Royal Albert Bar & Grill, a music venue and restaurant that may not share the previous incarnation’s punk rock hole-in-the-wall vibes, but intends to maintain its status as an Exchange District go-to.
“We want people to feel comfortable meeting here any time,” said Swifte.
“It’s a whole new business model that has not been seen here before, and we hope people embrace that and get involved in helping develop it into their ‘go-to’ place in the Exchange.”
Swifte said the restaurant side of the Albert – which is family-friendly – offers a pub menu that includes some Alycia’s dishes, and will be expanding to include breakfast on the menu in future.
As for the music side of things, the resurrected club is looking to keep one foot in the Albert’s storied past while looking ahead to the city’s currently thriving music scene.
“Our mission is to honour the tradition of what the Albert was and bring all those music fans back into the mix, while at the same time modernizing the lineup to reflect all the talented artists who call Manitoba their home,” said talent buyer Ryan Sorensen.
“We aim to be a multi-genre venue which will showcase great music of all genres.”
The Albert relaunches Friday night with Selkirk grunge rockers The Bloodshots alongside Winnipeg’s The Love Tongues and Snarky Remarkable. The music continues Saturday afternoon with a blues jam hosted by Billy Joe Green, and an evening of electronic music previewing the MEME festival Saturday night.
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