Battle of Ontario ramping up in Byward Market with Sens House opening

David Sali
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The newest Ottawa Senator greeted fans at the Byward Market’s newest sports gathering place on Thursday afternoon.

Right to left: Cody Ceci, Mark Stone, Mayor Jim Watson, Alex Chiasson, Steve Monuk of Ottawa Venues, Senators president Cyril Leeder and Marc Methot at Thursday's ceremonial opening of Sens House Bar and Grill.

Winger Alex Chiasson, who was acquired July 1 from Dallas in exchange for former Ottawa captain Jason Spezza, was among several players on hand at the ceremonial opening of Sens House Bar and Grill.

A joint venture between the Senators and local bar and restaurant group Ottawa Venues, Sens House has room for 250 customers. Among its features are a 1,500-square-foot patio with a retractable roof and a heated floor as well as a state-of-the-art, 18-foot high-definition screen.

Senators president Cyril Leeder said the team had been looking at launching a sports bar in the mould of the famed ESPN Zones in the U.S. for almost a decade before deciding to take over the second-floor site of the former Hard Rock Cafe at 73 York St., which shut its doors last September.

“We had talks with a number of different restaurateurs and developers over the years and finally the deal came along. It was the right group at the right time in the right location,” Mr. Leeder said after Thursday’s event, where hundreds of guests got a look at the retractable roof in action.

“It’s an opportunity to have a presence down in the Byward Market. It’s a historic part of our city. We really feel we are Ottawa-Gatineau, and this is a great way to have an outreach back into the community.”

The Senators own a minority stake in the business. Ottawa Venues, which owns several other bars and restaurants in the Market, including Fat Tuesday’s and Cornerstone Bar and Grill, is the majority owner and will oversee day-to-day operations.

The Senators’ newest venture faces stiff competition in the Market from a friendly on- and off-ice rival. Just a block south, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment operates Real Sports Bar and Grill. The 380-seat venue, which opened in 2012, has 99 flat-screen televisions and a 25-foot projection screen.

Steve Monuk, a partner in Ottawa Venues, said he hopes Sens House becomes the place to be for Ottawa fans as well as fans of other teams, including those who might prefer blue to red and white. The bar officially opens to the public on Monday.

“The vision for us is to create an atmosphere for those fans that can’t be at the rink or for those away games,” he said, promising promotions “you’ve never seen at any other sports bar.”

Mr. Leeder said he is looking forward to going head-to-head with the Leafs in a different arena, adding there should be no shortage of business for both establishments.

“It’s a good rivalry, it’s good competition,” he said. “I think in this case…it’s more of a complementary situation.”

Organizations: Sens House Bar, Hard Rock Cafe

Geographic location: Ottawa, Ontario, Dallas U.S. Gatineau Maple Leaf

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