The owners of a George Street classic, Green Sleeves Pub, have re-vamped the space above themselves – formerly The Well – into an “upscale-casual” night spot featuring small plates and a trend-watching drinks menu.

Loose Tie Cocktail-Resto-Lounge was imagined over six months and built in two weeks. A wide, grey, manufactured Corian slab bar runs the length of the main space; the walls are done in large glossy white “subway” style tiles, with a row of garage door windows that open up above the heavily marketed and occasionally vomit-covered cobbles of our very own Disneyfied sin-strip. These touches give the space a hard but appealing diner feel and an outstanding vantage for people watching.

The metal and bulb light fixtures, large photo prints of graffiti, and wood burl accent pieces will be familiar to those who have been enjoying the boom in downtown restaurants the last 5 years. Co-owners Jody Temple and Stefan Hancock collaborated with SAM Design’s Susan Drover to create this popular look they describe as “urban, cool, loft-style.”

It feels Toronto-lite and a bit forced, but the large leather sofa on the main floor and fabric sectionals in the upstairs lounge area are comfortable and make for microclimates of intimacy. It is not inspiring, but it will offend no one and accommodate anyone from romantic dates, to bachelorette parties, to after office Happy Hourers looking to loos(en their) ties and just relax.

Bolstering this bid to help patrons relax is a mandate to not overfill the space with bodies or noise. Though the “beats will rise and the lights will fall” a bit as the evening deepens, the seats are set up strategically to allow elbow room and the volume levels are always meant to facilitate interaction, not over power it.

The menu also follows in the paths of others, like Chinched and The Reluctant Chef, with a focus on small plates and cocktails. The craft beer menu (focused on Canadian breweries), and catch-all wine list is hoping to please everyone.

The cocktails are designed by Sommelier Craig Newman to “be accessible” for patrons who may not have tried craft or classic cocktails before, while holding to his standards of using only high quietly ingredients and being made “with love going into each.”

To this end, the bartender faces the patrons while mixing the drinks and can engage at each step of the process. Newman has paid attention to not just the flavours but the temperature of the drinks. Each drink has “the proper type of ice” (crushed for tiki drinks, etc) and each glass is chilled before serving so that you “don’t have to slam it back” to enjoy it at its peak.

Even more appealing than the old-school Trader Vic’s style tiki drink in a frosty hula-dancer mug, is the satisfaction of the employees. Lauren Avery, of Loose Ties’ management team, has been working for Temple and Hancock since soon after her arrival in St. John’s over ten years ago.

She recently traveled to California for vacation with another employee courtesy of their staff incentive program. Temple says that quality food is important but nothing tops treating staff well and that “it all starts with team.”

Trends may take longer to hit us way out here than in other lively cities, but treating people well never goes out of style, and with a dynamic menu and good location, let’s down a cold glass of mixed rums and fruit juices with a big old umbrella stuck in it to the local entrepreneurs working their tails off to stay in the black, and keep us all fed and tipsy.

Loose Tie (2 of 2)

Photo by Joel Upshall for The Overcast