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Michael Jesso's Fabulous, Derailed

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With the northwest corner of downtown in a stall as City Hall works through what some are calling “over expropriation”, one phoenix that has risen out of the ashes is The Keg Steakhouse and Bar. Caught next door to the Oil Sands hotel on one side and the old Fort Theater on the other, the City expropriated both of those properties, including The Keg’s rear parking lot, leaving a 5-foot alley to the staff door. While initial panic started to set in, and realizing they would get nowhere with City Hall, local owner Tony Loga and business partner Kevin Person decided to race City Hall and do their renovation earlier than expected.

As scandals erupted and city managers base jumped from their windows at City Hall, The Keg quietly closed the bar first, punching a hole in the wall into the previous pool area of the Nomad Inn allowing for a giant ball room feeling lounge complete with upper mezzanine and a dramatic yet stunning 3 tier marble fireplace. The dining room was closed at a later date and upgraded with all the bells and whistles you would expect to find in fine dining Las Vegas. With a final tally of $5.2-million in renovations, this makes The Keg Steakhouse and Bar one of the most expensive renovations to date in Fort McMurray. But remember folks, this was gamble, pulled off by two smart business men who put their heads together and gave downtown Fort McMurray what it needed and wanted, often sacrificing their own personal lives and not to mention their retirement fund to make it happen.

As a single and busy person I find myself eating out all the time. I was no stranger to The Keg in the past; in fact it has been my favourite Sunday night haunt for the last six years where I could nip in unnoticed, eat and enjoy dinner by myself. What I’ve noticed in the last few years as more and more lounges, bars and restaurants open is that there seems to be a heavy identity crisis going on downtown. None of the places that were original downtown hotspots have been able to figure out who their clientele is or where they went. Pubs become discos, lounges turn into country bars complete with hay bales and cowboy hats, comedy nights with not a comedian in sight, bands get tucked away into corners of rooms all trying to draw in a crowd that they hope will come back the next day or week. Sadly it’s not working and the people suffering are the great folks of Wood Buffalo who can’t figure out where to go anymore; no one is consistent. Big money nights are not where it’s at anymore.

The Keg changes all that. While the decor may have changed, the same great menu is still there plus the staff has barely changed in the last 10 years. It’s always the same friendly faces greeting you and that’s something major that can be said for employers these days.

With the RMWB still trying to figure out what’s going to be built on that empty lot that they forcefully purchased, have no fear there is a diamond in the rough. So I ask that people start coming back downtown to eat drink and play. Timberlea is only five minutes away and believe me, with all the empty lots there is plenty of parking!

Photos left, top to bottom: Shaw TV’s Jordan Hertner with Andrea Janzen from The Keg head office. Bartenders Mark, Matt and Omar kept the drinks flowing all night. An inside look at The Keg and Owners Tony Loga and Kevin Person at The Keg Grand Reopening party on March 5, 2015.


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