It has been known for some time that Browns Socialhouse was going to open in Centrepoint opposite. However, week after week would go by and all that can be seen was paper in the windows. Meanwhile the Merchant Kitchen tucked beside the Alt Hotel entrance has been bubbling along.

One wonders if we will ever know why Milestones backed out of a long term lease at the last moment.

The new Brown’s Socialhouse will join two others already on the city at Main Street and another at Plessis Road. The restaurant group started in 2004 in Vancouver and has expanded rapidly across the country. The founder Scotty Brown was one of the principals of Vancouver’s Cactus Club group. His new enterprise has surpassed his old one and now there are 40 locations.

The casual dining/pub crossover is growing more popular as people want to gather together and move around rather than just be parked at a table. The evolution of flat panel and high definition televisions has changed bars and restaurants. No more picture tube TVs, projection screens of flat panels that are blurry. It is all large HD screens and can be done cheap enough that even the a mom and pop restaurant can now transform to sports bar.

The increasing isolation and a change in television has meant that people are craving certain meeting places and the focal point is the only thing that really isn’t worth watching in a recording: sports. The return of the Jets in 2011 coincided with widespread HD channels in that same year. Can’t go to the Jets games cause they’re sold out? Well, attend any number of bars and restaurants and be part of the excitement.

The bars and restaurants surrounding the the MTS Centre have done well. Moxies, Boston Pizza, Tavern United and others have not just the Winnipeg Jets but the Manitoba Moose and numerous concerts to bring people downtown.

The Jets owners have improved their facility and doubled the sports events with two professional teams calling the arena home. Still, the Chipman family have been instrumental in the plan to expand the entertainment footprint beyond the arena. At first they did this by using the building across the street to bring in special touring events such as Bodies and Titanic. This proved wildly successful.

It is hard to say when the Chipmans decided to embark on a grander scheme for just north of their building but it is likely the event center’s popularity made them believe a large project would work. It was thus that Centrepoint was born.

The parkade, hotel, office building, condo and restaurant complex has taken a very long time to complete. It seems that barricades and the like have been around that area of Portage for a few years. In that time though, each section has opened up. The offices and hotel appear to be doing well. The parkade is well used although the neon lights on the side still take a bit to get used to.

The one glaring area giving the whole thing an incomplete look has been the papered over windows on the main level. Brown’s Socialhouse says that will change in January of February of 2017. At that time they will build a 225 seat restaurant with a 75 seat patio. This will be double the normal Brown’s location and as such, it has been a daunting task to fill the space.

The connectivity of the restaurant and bar scene to venues like the MTS Centre and the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre is seen as critical to their long time survival. The proximity to each other is also essential.

Brown’s Socialhouse will fill a hole on the north side of Portage and will likely make that corner more lively and pedestrian friendly. More people draws more traffic. There are safety in numbers but no one will stick around for papered over windows. They will for a patio filled with people.

This has been an editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations