The Battle of Ontario is officially spilling over from the arena into the tavern.
The new Sens House Sports Bar and Grill will open next month at the site of the former Hard Rock Cafe in the ByWard Market.
The Ottawa Senators announced Tuesday the NHL team is partnering with local bar and restaurant group OttawaVenues to open Sens House Bar and Grill, a 250-seat venue at the site of the former Hard Rock Cafe at 73 York St. in the ByWard Market.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant is located just a block from Real Sports Bar and Grill, which is owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
The Sens and Leafs might have an intense rivalry on the ice, but both the Senators and OttawaVenues downplayed the potential competition between the bars when contacted by the OBJ. Management at Real Sports was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
“I think we offer something totally different than what they offer,” said Steve Monuk, a partner in OttawaVenues, adding he prefers to think of the newest entry to the Market’s bar scene as a complement to Real Sports. “The (nine-by-16-foot projection) screen that we’re getting is supposed to be second to none.”
Mike Wallace, the Senators’ senior director of marketing, said the team has been eyeing potential partners in such a venture since 2009, well before Real Sports announced it was coming to Ottawa.
He said OttawaVenues, a group of 12 ByWard Market bars and restaurants that includes Fat Tuesdays and Pub101, will oversee the day-to-day operations of Sens House, while the two organizations will work together on marketing and promotions.
“It seemed to be a perfect fit for what we wanted to do,” said Mr. Wallace, who declined to discuss specifics of the business relationship and wouldn’t reveal the total cost of the project. “We’re viewing this truly as a partnership.”
The second-floor space is expected to be finished by mid-June with a targeted opening of before Canada Day. When completed, the restaurant will boast another eye-popping feature besides the big screen – a 1,500-square-foot patio covered by a state-of-the-art retractable roof.
Manufactured by Connecticut-based Roll-A-Cover International, the roof will be the first of its kind in Canada, Mr. Monuk said.
“That seemed to be something that was brand new and not done anywhere else around here,” he said. “That particular patio going back to the Hurley’s days (another previous bar at the York Street location) was one of most popular places in the city of Ottawa. We looked for something new and innovative to bring it back to those days.”
The Senators will also have a merchandise outlet in the restaurant. Mr. Wallace said it’s all part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to enhance the game-day experience for fans.
“The reality is that sometimes our fans can’t always get to every game, so this provides us the best experience for a Sens fan if you’re not at the rink,” he said.
“We’re about building a brand. One of the things we want to do is continue to develop that fan experience. Having a bar that’s basically in the heart of the ByWard Market provides us that great opportunity to reach those fans as well.”
Mr. Monuk’s group bought the former Hard Rock property two years ago. The iconic theme restaurant shut down last September after 17 years at the location.