Goodbye for now, Lo Pub

Patrons and local musicians remember the popular downtown bar

Lo Pub owner Jack Jonasson lived and breathed his business for the last four years. “We’ll be back in some form,” he says. “It’s what I was meant to do.” Nicholas Friesen

By now the news is old, but nevertheless still sad.

Lo Pub and Bistro, the University of Winnipeg’s “unofficial off-campus pub” has closed.

The last mushroom nut burger has been served, shows have been cancelled or relocated, and the Friends of Lo Pub discount card will remain unused in the 2012-13 Student Handbook.

As soon as word broke out about the abrupt closure of the friendly neighbourhood pub on Aug. 24, condolences and well wishes to the bar’s staff began to pour in via news article comments and the Lo Pub’s Facebook page.

Patrons and bands from near and far commented on the uniqueness of the Lo, and its welcoming atmosphere, and threads on the page were even started to share your “Favourite Lo Memory” or “Favourite Lo Show,” like they were being nominated for an award.

“The orange-brown colour palette and general decor gave you the sense that you were walking into a basement den from 1979,” patron Greg Gallinger says of the pub’s atmosphere via email. “The couches near the fireplace were quite possibly the coziest place to drink outside of one’s own home.

“It feels like Grandpa sold the house to move to a nursing home and now the new owners are ripping up that old familiar basement den to turn it into a workout room.”

“It felt like it was a progressive place even if they never made any obvious political statements,” U of W political sciences student Ben Brisebois says. “(And) I’ll never be able to disassociate Half Pints from the Lo. Half Pints always seemed like it was their flagship brand and their main draw.”

Nicole Barry, co-owner of Half Pints Brewing Co., and Vanessa Meads, the brewery’s administrator, also have fond memories of the late bar, where they celebrated Half Pints’ fifth anniversary last year with a rock show featuring The Vibrating Beds, The Thrashers and “surprise casks.”

“We got as rowdy as humanly possible,” jokes Meads.

Started by manager Jack Jonasson in late 2007, the Lo Pub and Bistro turned a formerly seedy vendor into a community meeting-place whose closure Winnipeggers near and far are lamenting.

“On any given night you could walk in and see a whole crowd of your friends. It was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to Cheers,” Gallinger says, which is exactly what Jonasson was going for when he took over the Kennedy Street spot.

“For Stylus the Lo Pub has acted almost as an office for our contributor meetings and a general place to retire to for a pint after a long day/week of editing during production time,” says Sheldon Birnie, editor of Stylus Magazine. “We’d just started what we hoped were (and are, still) to be a series of launch parties for the magazine at the Lo, who were gracious hosts and gave us the run of the place.”

The final Stylus launch held at the Lo was for the August/September issue, and featured 13 bands, which the pub staff was happy to accommodate.

But for all these “lasts,” Lo Pub was the location of many a first for a multitude of people.

“It’s just starting to sink in, Tiff and I met at the Lo,” musician David Van Den Bossche commented.

The Manic Shakes guitarist says he met his long-time partner and former Crusty Cat bandmate in person for the first time at the pub, and they immediately hit it off.

“We ended up spending like six hours talking about music because the stuff they were playing was both of our favourite bands.”

Van Den Bossche isn’t the only one to have met “that special someone” at Lo Pub, with other patrons commenting on the Facebook page that they had met their spouse in the oblong room.

Colin Enquist, a blogger and student in Red River College’s Creative Communications program, says he met many of his friends there for the first time. The laid-back environment made it easy to talk to fellow students, and the pub even served as common ground to meet Twitter acquaintances.

Enquist was in attendance for Lo’s final hurrah, and blogged about it.

“Walking in, it was like a sauna. I honestly believe anyone who was wearing glasses had them fog up when they walked in. It was worth it though, just to spend one last night there.”

Worry not, though, because Jonasson is actively seeking a new location for Lo 2.0.

“It’s all up in the air, but we’ll be back, in some form,” he says. “It’s what I was meant to do.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 5, 2012)

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