Real Sports Bar shuts amid intensifying competition for Ottawa entertainment dollars

Four years after it opened its doors in the ByWard Market with much fanfare, the Real Sports Bar & Grill suddenly announced it was closing permanently on Wednesday.

 

In a message posted to its website and social media channels, the bar – which is owned by the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, MLSE – offered no explanation for shutting down.

 

“We would like to thank the City of Ottawa for welcoming Real Sports Bar & Grill so warmly as well as the customers who shared their passion for food, drink and sports with us over the past four years. Effective Wednesday, November 16, we have made the difficult decision to suspend operations and announce the closure of this location. A special thank you also goes to our staff of Real Sports Bar & Grill for their dedication over the past four years. Thank you Ottawa!” the message read.

The 380-seat venue had 99 flat-screen televisions as well as a 25-foot projection screen. While the original Real Sports Bar & Grill in Toronto is located steps from the Air Canada Centre, the Ottawa location was surrounded by other bars and restaurants.

Retail analyst Barry Nabatian said this was one of several challenges the business faced.

“The bar was too large and its noisy/busy concept did not have a universal appeal,” he told OBJ.

He said competition with other venues in the ByWard Market and, possibly more significantly, increasingly popular entertainment areas elsewhere in the city such as Lansdowne Park, Westboro and Wellington Street West, likely hurt Real Sports.

“The ByWard Market has not changed significantly in the last 30 years, whereas the demographics and lifestyles (of residents) have,” Mr. Nabatian said.

This is the second major closure of a ByWard Market business in recent months. In August, the owners of Murray Street restaurant announced that the eight-year-old business’s last night will be New Year’s Eve.

However, it’s not all bad news for the ByWard Market. The upscale Andaz Hotel opened its doors in late August and continues to generate a buzz, particularly for its rooftop patio.

And other sports bars continue to operate in the area, including Sens House, which is owned by the Ottawa Senators.

That bar opened two years after Real Sports. While some suggested the two clubs were engaged in an off-ice Battle of Ontario and competing for patrons, the operators themselves downplayed suggestions of a rivalry and said they were offering complementary products.