National Arts Centre seeking artsy beans for possible downtown cafe

Haley Ritchie
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The National Arts Centre wants to hear from would-be coffee shop owners as part of the plan for the institution’s 2017 renovation.

The NAC is getting a massive glass-filled renovation that will be ready to unveil before July 1, 2017.

On Monday the NAC’s food and beverage general manager, Nelson Borges, sought feedback through a request for expression of interest document from businesses on the idea of a coffee shop that would occupy prime real estate inside the building’s new glass lobby.

“We haven’t decided whether we’re going to run that or whether we’ll let someone come in who can create what we’re looking for,” said Mr. Borges. “What we are really trying to do it create something that’s unique.”

Mr. Borges said the request is open to businesses across Canada – but the NAC isn’t looking a mega chain to occupy the space.

“We don’t want just a Tim Horton’s or another Starbucks. We want something that will match what we do with the building artistically,” he said.

The shop would be at ground level facing Confederation Square at the northwest corner on Elgin Street and would ideally be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, opening an hour later on the weekend.

It would serve both NAC patrons and staff, but also beckon the general public into the lobby after the mega $110-million renovation, which is scheduled for completion by July 1, 2017.

“The nature of our what we do here is that people are here in the evening," explained Mr. Borges about the current situation. "In the daytime my business does bring in people, because I run meetings and events and the restaurant, but other than that this is a ghost town."

“So when we open up the building, full of glass, we want to animate it. We want daytime shows going on that are free to draw people in and there has to be a food and beverage component to that,” he said. “We don’t want the coffee just to be something you get when you’re coming to see a show but something to draw you here as well. It needs to be a unique, cool and fun concept.”

To match that artistic spirit of the NAC the documents call for a “creative story around the coffee.” Mr. Borges explained that such a story might the way the beans are roasted or sourced.

“We want something that coffee nuts are going to want to come to,” he said.

Businesses that apply must be currently operating a successful franchise already and have at least five years experience in the industry.

The deadline for applications is April 15 but Mr. Borges emphasized it’s currently only in the idea phase of tendering, so there are no concrete plans for the café, but the NAC wants to test the waters to see if interest exists. 

This article originally appeared on on March 15.

Organizations: National Arts Centre, Starbucks

Geographic location: Canada, Elgin Street

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