Emily Deming’s Downtown Hotel Bar Round Up

Exile @ Jag, by Joel Upshall for The Overcast
Get a feel for 5 hotel bars in downtown St. John's

Sometimes you want to go where no one knows your name. Or where you can at least pretend a little anonymity in an otherwise that-guy-I’m-talking-about-is-right-behind-me-isn’t-he? sort of town. You could hit the road to bay town where your name would be “that townie” or you can slide into the alternate universe of the hotel bar.

It still won’t be safe to gossip but you may get propositioned by someone with no overlapping sexual history. Or you can talk to no one. Be no one. Be noir, or corporate, or sad, or luxuriously quiet. A hotel bar is the ultimate cliché and therefore ripe for re-invention.

Bivvers @ The Sheraton 

At Bivvers Bar, your back is always safely against a wall as the room is circular with a slatted wood divider between the barstools and the tables. Wherever you sit, you feel more “watcher” than “watchee.” The shape and the decor makes it feel like the authentic 70s version of that new Merchant Tavern-esque “wood and light bulb” chic. With the greenery of the two story atrium in the distance, it is a good make-believe escape from Newfoundland. But it might be best to forget with a beer as the cocktails are not inspiring, and the mark-up on the wine list is big-city silly, though the homemade potato chips are free.

Harbour Room @ The Marriott Courtyard 

A block down on Duckworth Street is the Marriott Courtyard. After several changes of ownership and names, the Harbour Room restaurant and bar seems to be sticking. This spot has one of the best views in town. Large glass panes looking through the narrows with no obstruction. The renos have made it more modern but you can’t properly hide in the shadows. With its upscaled generic facelift it is an inoffensive spot to watch ships come through the fog and drink quite reasonably priced wine.

The Luxus

The Luxus is the puzzling “boutique hotel” that popped up last year on Water just east of Prescott with the least fanfare and most expensive trimmings (not to mention rooms). It may be haunted by the strip club that once occupied that building, or it may be entirely the grey crushed velvet couches, glass topped tables, and Joe Francis look-a-likes at the bar but it makes one’s investigative muscles twitch. Yet it is partially this drop of Eyes Wide Shut in a Weekend at Bernie’s town that makes it enjoyable despite its lack of soul. And who cares about soul when the bartender makes a perfectly crisp gin martini? I would creep the foot traffic downtown from behind those heavily tinted windows any day for a few more sips of a drink that well concocted.

The Delta

The bar at The Delta is made to be used. It has a hugely varied clientele, as the Delta itself is a catch-all of humanity. The bar is for drinking, resting, getting eye-balled, dragging off, reflecting, and hiding out from your kids and getting work done. It is the largest bar of this round-up and the one I most wish was called “Shenanigans.” The menu is long and runs from cocktails like the “Jiggy Juice” to a bottle of Dom Pérignon. These are the cheapest (though least appealing) cocktails of the bunch; great people watching and fast service.

Exile @ Jag

Last, but no longer least, Exile at JAG down on George St West keeps steadily improving itself. The Caesar is really really good. One of the best in town. The other cocktails are ambitious. The place is lively, and the heavy handed classic Rock n Roll theme at least promises a decent playlist. People were celebrating and drinking with colleagues, friends, and family. It has completely escaped any nostalgic barstool maudlin. It isn’t hip but its savvy, the salad and the burgers are good, and, well, why not… the kids are alright.

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