The Bank & Baron P.U.B is the latest establishment to take up residence in Stephen Avenue’s heritage Bank of Nova Scotia building. The 5,000 sq. ft., space has been through many incarnations from the Cha Cha Palace in the early 1980s to Rococo Restaurant to the iconic The Bank nightclub. The British-style pub is owned by the TMAC Pub and Restaurant Group – Chad McCormick, Gord McCormick, Greg Taylor and Adam MacGregor – who already operate seven other pubs in Calgary including the Belfry, the King’s Head, and the Kilt and Caber Ale House.
The Initial Idea
Around a year and a half ago Adam MacGregor and fellow partner Gord McCormick came across the Bank of Nova Scotia on Stephen Avenue while looking at another location in the area.
This archive photo shows the exterior looking much the same as it does today.
“Gordon immediately fell in love with the exterior of the building,” says MacGregor. “As soon as he saw the size of the room and the 35-foot ceilings he envisioned the space as a pub.” After tracking down the landlord and current tenant – at the time it was The Exchange Nightclub – a deal was struck to take over the lease.
“We wanted to create that warm pub feeling so we knew we needed to scale it down so it didn’t feel so open,” says MacGregor. “We had a vision in our mind of adding two more mezzanines to the existing one and moving the back bar from the wall to an island style bar.”
The Construction Phase
Built in 1930 by Toronto architect John Lyle, the art deco building was designated an Alberta historical resource structure in 1981. Protected character-defining elements of the building include the exterior sandstone work, the brasswork, the gold flake ceiling, the walls and the floor. Construction on the space began in the fall of last year and the group, along with its design team Corea Sotropa, spared no expense in coming up with inventive solutions to meet provincial requirements.
“As the building is protected by the province, it made it tricky to build two new mezzanines and go to an island bar,” says MacGregor. “The mezzanines are actually about an inch off all the walls so they do not touch in any place that is historic. And we lucked out with the pillars because where they came down wasn’t heritage flooring, so they go all the way down and are anchored into the basement floor.”
The new mezzanines add square footage to the already vast space.
When it came to the installation of the island bar there was the issue of routing plumbing, electrical, and audio/visual lines up from the basement. Again, the design team was fortunate as the bar fell within the location of the old check-signing stations. These stations originally stood on grilled heating vents, which had been removed and replaced with non-heritage black tiles in a previous renovation.
The magnificent central island bar with the former bank managers office in the background.
“Heritage said anything that had to come up to the bar had to come up through those two tiles. So again we lucked out that the one tile fell in the middle of the bar, that’s where all the power and the audio/visual comes up for the coolers and the TV, and then the other one fell within the parameter of the bar so that’s where all our water for glass washers and all of our draft lines come up from.”
Working with the Province and the Restoration Process
“We didn’t do what we did because the Province told us we had to,” says MacGregor. “We really took an approach to not hide anything and to restore as much as we could.”
This restorative approach is apparent throughout the space. The hardwood floors in the bank manager’s office have been refurbished and there are plans to reinstate the original fireplace and washroom.
A picture of George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen, hangs in the former bank managers office.
Downstairs, the original vaults are still in place and the main vault is in the process of being converted into a scotch and wine tasting room.
Before and After. The downstairs vault space is slated for private functions and business meetings.
The exterior will be given a revamp too, with the installation of an old canopy-type sign following the discovery of a photo, which shows the original frontage.
Plans for a canopy sign similar to the one depicted above are with the City awaiting approval.
The Executive Chef and Menu
Executive chef Kevin Cooper, former owner of Olives and exec chef for Ric’s Grill, has prepared a menu of trendy pub fare which includes his award-winning lobster lasagna along with appetizers, soups and salads, pizzas and flatbreads, sterling silver beef, organic wings and a selection of sandwiches and panini.
The spicy organic chicken and quinoa salad is tossed in a creamy avocado dressing.
Cooper’s lobster lasagna is served with Canadian Bay scallops, lobster bisque and organic kennebec potato and spinach.
The gluten free flourless chocolate cake is finished with a Nutella rice crispy treat.
General manager Clionadh Flanagan says, “It’s all the foods you crave but with a healthy edge. And a number of dishes are available gluten-free.”
Drinks-wise there is something for everyone with 26 beers on tap including 12 craft beers on rotation.
There are 26 beers on tap.
Many of the cocktails play on the financial history of the location including the Mex Currency, a mix of tequila, butterscotch schnapps, creme de cacao and O.J., it is finished with a sprinkle of dark cocoa and rimmed with popping candy. The bourbon sour comes with fresh lemon juice, angostura bitters and an optional, but recommended, freshly shaken egg white on the top.
The Mex Currency
The Bourbon Sour
Both Flanagan and MacGregor hope that the pub will become a landmark for the city. “We really think that it can become an iconic part of Calgary,” says MacGregor. “The space deserves it.”
The Bank and Baron P.U.B opened on February 14.
(125 8 Ave. S.W., 587-293-9688, bankandbaronpub.com)
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