The Academy’s identity crisis

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Osborne Village’s Academy Food Drinks Music recently changed its name to Cheer Bar and Grill, with the intention of showing every Winnipeg Jets game throughout the season.

Ownership is not changing hands, so this is essentially a reframing. Since the bar will be maintaining its functionality as a venue and restaurant, this means that not much has changed. They just do another thing.   

But Academy already does several things. Is it a fancy Italian restaurant? Is it a venue with live music? Is it a dance club?

In reality it’s all these things, and for that reason fails to be really good at any of them.

Here’s one example of what the mishmash inspires: I’m a musician and I was playing a show there once with Cheering for the Bad Guy. When I stumbled into the bathroom, I was confronted by an attendant working hand drying duty.

Of course, tips were expected. But the only money in my pocket at the time was for beer and beer only, and I could not afford to spend it on unexpected gratuities. The attendant smiled and said, “It’s all right. You don’t need to tip,” and dried my hands while I looked away.

It was awkward and comical, but on a deeper level this incident is symbolic of the misunderstanding Academy seems to have for its patrons. Nobody coming to a down and dirty country show wants to have their hands dried, though perhaps this makes sense on a club night.   

Because the ownership is not changing, Academy is presumably doing good business, particularly as a dance club. But I fear that adding this sports bar angle will clutter the bar even further.

Apparently live music is to happen after the hockey games are over, but how do they propose to negotiate the overlap between the hockey crowd and the music crowd? This is one of the more obvious foreseeable difficulties.

That being said, it certainly makes sense that a city with a thriving CFL team and a recently acquired NHL team would see bars turn increasingly to sports coverage. All I ask is that we let the music live.

When I think of my favourite Winnipeg venues, I feel old. This is because I long for the days of the Academy that was actually on Academy, where I saw many great bands and drank coffee. And Rogue’s Gallery, where have you gone…hello…Blue Note?

I weep for my lost venues. Just leave me be.