9 Best Bars for Business Deals
We offer up a select list of bars and lounges where business is on the menu
Vin Room West.
Photograph by Dan Clapson
It’s classically dim, the couches are sink-into soft and the sound is subtle. The Belvedere lounge is serious, but not stodgy; rich, but not opulent; erudite, but not condescending. The historic sandstone building oozes maturity; it’s a place to go when the deal is done, when you’d like a drink or two to celebrate and then move on to The Belvedere’s fine dining room.
Martinis – all mixed with Belvedere vodka, of course – are the order of the day. (The smoky martini of Belvedere with 10-year-old Ardbeg whisky, a peaty tipple, is a chewy drink to set the mood for dinner.) Global heavy-hitter wines line up in the cellar – verticals of Chateau Montelena, Beringer, Chteau Margaux and many more – to satisfy cravings for an elegant sip.
Then it’s time to tuck in for dinner under the huge skylight and continue the evening.
(107 8 Ave. S.W., 403-265-9595, thebelvedere.ca)
With the best Scotch collection in the city – it’s claimed to be the best in North America – with close to 300 labels, Buchanan’s is the place to take the whisky aficionado. The woody confines of the bar and its surrounding booths give Buchanan’s bar an American West Coast chophouse tone. Grab a high chair at the bar and enjoy great service and a lively discussion with the bartender.
Or, book a quiet booth to hammer out the last details of your deal over a glass of whisky or a selection from the extensive wine list. With more than two dozen wines available by the glass, you don’t have to indulge heavily, and the wine sets up nicely with Buchanan’s meat and seafood cuisine.
For a larger event, Buchanan’s private back room, a 28-seat space with its own dedicated bar, might well be the location you’re looking for.
(738 3 Ave. S.W., 403-261-4646, buchanans.ca)
I once saw Mordecai Richler holding court in the Oak Room Lounge, a halo of smoke circling his head (in pre-smokeless days) as he gesticulated to punctuate his points to the assembled. His rumpled jacket, his tousled, haircut-needing hair and his throaty laugh seemed perfect for the setting.
The Oak Room is a cushy place with heavy, slightly rumpled chairs that seem to have been there forever, collected around low wood tables. It’s the kind of place where live jazz pops up some nights and where you can find Mot & Chandon by the glass.
The Oak Room has been a Calgary gathering place for a century; the Duke of Windsor, in his rakish early Prince of Wales days before his short stint as King Edward VIII, was a regular. Calgary’s earliest oil deals were done here over a quick beer or a short whisky.
Raw Bar manager Christina Mah is known locally as the Queen of Cocktails. Want something creative to stimulate discussion? Just tell her what you like and it will appear shortly in a glass. Then sink back into one of Raw Bar’s chairs and let the conversation unfold.
Raw Bar is Hotel Arts’ lounge. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner are now served at the Yellow Door Bistro in the hotel.) It’s a large, open room that went through renovations in the fall of 2013. In addition to creative cocktails, Raw Bar has a stellar menu of Pacific Rim-influenced dishes with a wine list well-matched to the Asian flavours. And, if the cocktails are working and the day is warm, you can also grab a table by the pool and relax into the deal.
Located across 1st Street S.W. from the Palliser in what used to be Calgary’s main post office, Rush provides a sumptuous setting for a business meeting. Private rooms of varying sizes are available, and the plush, high-ceilinged, carpeted dining room awaits with great food. But it’s the lounge that first draws your attention.
Located by Rush’s entrance, the lounge offers a streetside view of 9th Avenue. Seating is at the bar or in large, cushioned chairs and booths. This is a lounge that takes you away from the busy side of Calgary and plunks you into a relaxed environment so you can concentrate on the business at hand. Details can be hammered out over classic cocktails and modern comfort foods from the lounge menu. Or slip into the dining room to continue the evening with the latest iteration of Rush’s menu, which is laden with steak and seafood dishes.
The historic brick and sandstone surroundings, the padded leather chairs and the long marble-topped bar of the Sandstone Lounge conjure up visions of oil deals done over Mad Men-style cocktails. The televisions are discreet, the tables are well-spaced and music is low enough, you can hear ice cubes tinkle in your neighbour’s glass.
The Hyatt folks built the Sandstone Lounge with enough plushness to comfort the most distracted business traveller. With dining options attached, hotel rooms above and indoor proximity to the Telus Convention Centre, the Epcor Centre, City Hall and various parts of downtown through the Plus-15s, Sandstone offers the option of going coatless and bootless on nasty winter days. No point getting those contracts streaked with slush.
The Trib is a smart, two-level place. Many restaurateurs would have set the dining room on the main floor and the lounge in the basement. But here, the lounge greets you when you enter the historic sandstone confines. (The Tribune Block was built in 1892 to house Calgary’s first newspaper.)
A large, rectangular bar takes centre stage at The Trib, with high, leather-clad chairs surrounding it. Low seats fill the remaining space, which is fairly small. The banquette that runs along the east wall offers a clear view of the bar and the rest of the room.
The Trib evokes solidity, longevity and richness. It has a clubby tone with few distractions, perfect for business discussions that demand focus.
Downstairs, the dining room has a small private room and a lush steakhouse menu that’s supported by a fine wine list. The linened dining room, reminiscent of a cruise ship, provides the perfect coda to the conversation started in the lounge.
If business takes you to the west end of town, the new Vin Room West offers a fine option for a meeting, a sip and a bite. A fresh offshoot of the popular Vin Room Mission, the new location is much larger and airier than the original.
A large bar filled with Enomatic wine dispensers divides the lounge from the dining room. More than 100 wines are available by the glass from these machines, so finding a taste for everyone’s palate is no problem. Trained staff offer a wealth of information to make your selections easier. (Note: the dispensers aren’t self-serve; the staff will take care of them for you.) And they don’t distract from the business at hand. Vin Room West is a quiet environment where you can converse at length (though it can get a little noisy on Friday and Saturday nights).
If hunger pangs hit, Vin Room West has a menu of wine-friendly tapas to fill the void.
Got a client flying in and out again quickly? Don’t want to meet at one of the airport’s food kiosks? The Delta Calgary Airport has a nice little lounge called YYC just off its lobby that can be a comfortable meeting spot.
Heavy brown-leather chairs cluster at low wooden tables while a line of high seats fronts the bar. It’s a remarkably quiet setting, considering the location (the hotel was built with extensive soundproofing). And it’s accessible from the terminal via covered walkways, so your visitors don’t have to go outside in nasty weather.
Classic mixed drinks, local and international beers and a well-priced selection of wines are available here, as is a short bar menu. YYC Lounge is attached to the Delta Hotel’s two restaurants – including the very fine North 51 Steakhouse – if your client’s flight is delayed or you just want to stick around after their plane takes off.
(Delta Calgary Airport, 2001 Airport Rd. N.E., 403-250-2609, deltacalgaryairport.ca)