Pub pro­pri­etor feel­ing a bit Lo, but hopes dream will rise again

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Melissa Martin GE­OR­GIA NI­COLS

IT’S Tues­day af­ter­noon, the sun is gen­tle on an Ex­change Dis­trict pa­tio, and Jack Jonas­son has just or­dered a beer.

This seems to come as a sur­prise to the man him­self. “Why not,” Jonas­son says, and laughs. “Af­ter all, I’m not work­ing.”

These are not words Jonas­son is used to say­ing. For the first time in four years, the Lo Pub pro­pri­etor has nowhere else to be: his hip down­town pub and bistro closed its doors on Satur­day, through no fault of its own. The pub was just col­lat­eral dam­age from the fail­ure of the HI-Win­nipeg Down­towner hos­tel, which leased the El­lice Av­enue build­ing the Lo called home. Still, it’s done — at least, for now.

This is how it went on Satur­day night, the last dance of the Lo Pub: less of a funeral, more of a wake. The vodka was gone by mid­night, and so was the gin, and then the beer taps ran dry and wine bot­tles spilled their fi­nal splash of white. The fi­nal few hun­dred rev­ellers fin­ished off the bar, sip­ping shots of ba­nana liqueur out of tall glasses. And they laughed, and hugged, and swapped sto­ries about the place.

Then the clock struck 2 a.m., the Lo Pub sign came down and the dozen staff crammed into the kitchen to say their good­byes. Eight hours later, Jonas­son shoved the last of the venue’s gear into a rented stor­age locker. Then he went home, and he cried, and he slept for 12 hours straight.

When he fi­nally woke up, he had mail: from pa­trons, from em­ploy- ees, from bands across Canada who mourned the Lo. “The last few days, there’s been such a del­uge of sup­port and love and care for me, for my staff, for the ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­one had in that space,” Jonas­son says. “Re­ally though, ev­ery­body’s com­ments and calls have made the end bear­able.”

Truth­fully though: barely so. When Jonas­son closed up on Satur­day, he left be­hind the first in­car­na­tion of a dream he’d held for a decade. Jonas­son, a vet­eran mu­si­cian, had no ex­pe­ri­ence in the res­tau­rant biz when he opened the pub in 2008. But he did have a vi­sion of cre­at­ing the space he’d al­ways wanted to play in: warm, wel­com­ing, a place that treated pa­trons well and made sure ev­ery mu­si­cian got paid.

He was a lit­tle naive in the busi­ness ways, he ad­mits now. Yet that dream was ex­actly what he made, over the course of so many 16-hour days. It took four years of his life, and four years’ worth of sleep. Some weeks, he says with a laugh now, he barely saw his wife. But when crowds flocked to the Lo for the mu­sic, the pint or just the peo­ple — it was all worth it. And ev­ery­one who loved the Lo knew Jack. Af­ter all, he was al­ways there. “It had just be­come such a part of me, such a part of who I am,” he says. “To have that end... well, it’s a tough thing for me.”

The Lo’s legacy, such as it is, was writ­ten in sound. Jonas­son rat­tles off a list of shows that de­fined the venue’s mu­si­cal mis­sion: there was that wild Flaming Lips video spec­ta­cle, and the pub’s first Pride party, and a pair of solo shows by Bryan Webb of The Con­stan­tines. “Oh,” Jonas­son adds, “and ev­ery night we did karaoke.”

Yeah, the Lo was an eclec­tic place. Its ve­gan food was a hit — you should have tried the mush­room-nut burger — and its free­wheel­ing mu­sic for­mula worked. Not just for bands and their fans, but for busi­ness: the pub started turn­ing a profit af­ter three months, Jonas­son says, even while the hos­tel next door strug­gled to fill its 120 beds.

So when news of the hos­tel’s woes broke and the place went up for sale, Jonas­son hoped the Lo might work out a deal with the build­ing’s fu­ture own­ers. It wasn’t to be: late last week, he learned the pub had to close. It was a “sur­real” feel­ing, he said, “like a death in the fam­ily. A lot of ‘why us’ ques­tions.”

In the days since, he’s had more time to re­flect. “At the end of the day, the Lo Pub wasn’t that space,” he says. “I loved that space, but at the end of the day a space is just a space. What goes into it is what the real char­ac­ter of a place is.

“And this,” he adds, and jabs his fin­ger at the ta­ble, “is what I’m meant to do.”

A prom­ise, then, and a tacit an­swer to the ques­tion that trips off of ev­ery lo­cal mu­sic fan’s lips: what comes next? Jonas­son con­sid­ers that for a mo­ment. First, he says, he’ll take some time to de­com­press. And then? “I feel an obli­ga­tion to Win­nipeg, and to the bands in Win­nipeg... to this place I love more than any other city in the world,” he says, and breaks into a coy grin.

“And I have a feel­ing... that things are go­ing to work out just fine.”

Stay tuned. ARIES (March 21-April 19) You might have mis­un­der­stand­ings or un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions with ro­man­tic part­ners to­day, hence a feel­ing of dis­ap­point­ment on your part or the part of some­one else. Just let this go be­cause it’s tem­po­rary. No big deal. Con­ver­sa­tions about or with chil­dren might also be con­fus­ing. (Yikes!) TAURUS (April 20-May 20) Be ex­tra clear in all your con­ver­sa­tions with fam­ily mem­bers or about fam­ily mat­ters. This also ap­plies to con­ver­sa­tions about real-es­tate ne­go­ti­a­tions. Peo­ple are quick to make er­ro­neous as­sump­tions or to ex­pect too much from oth­ers. If things go side­ways, ask some­one else what the prob­lem is. GEMINI (May 21-June 20) You might spend a lot of time to­day day­dream­ing or fan­ta­siz­ing about the fu­ture. Just call it a men­tal-health day. Be aware, how­ever, that your con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers can be eas­ily mis­un­der­stood and vice versa. Dou­ble-check all im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions, es­pe­cially be­tween sib­lings and neigh­bours. (You whaaat?) CAN­CER (June 21-July 22) Dis­cus­sions about pol­i­tics, re­li­gion or any­thing to do with pub­lish­ing, the me­dia, higher ed­u­ca­tion, the law and medicine are sub­ject to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and con­fu­sion to­day. If you sus­pect this is hap­pen­ing, it is! Don’t pounce on oth­ers if they seem to be way out in left field. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22) This is a poor day for im­por­tant fi­nan­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions or ma­jor de­ci­sions with oth­ers. For one thing, peo­ple will jump to the wrong con­clu­sion. They might ex­pect one thing while you are ex­pect­ing some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent. As­sume noth­ing! Be ex­tra clear in all your com­mu­ni­ca­tions. VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) It’s def­i­nitely true that un­ex­pressed ex­pec­ta­tions can lead to dis­ap­point­ment. This is ex­actly what is prob­a­bly hap­pen­ing to you to­day. By as­sum­ing some­thing rather than mak­ing it clear what you re­ally want, you might feel let down by some­one. (Bum­mer.) LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22) Your deal­ings with groups (they might be small gath­er­ings or large con­fer­ences) are sub­ject to mis­un­der­stand­ings to­day be­cause the planet Mer­cury is op­po­site fuzzy Nep­tune. This means ev­ery­one can fall prey to er­ro­neous as­sump­tions and mis­con­cep­tions. SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21) Be very clear when talk­ing to author­ity fig­ures to­day: bosses, par­ents, teach­ers, VIPs and the po­lice. Er­ro­neous as­sump­tions and mis­un­der­stand­ings could oc­cur, which then lead to fur­ther prob­lems. Be clear about what oth­ers ex­pect from you and vice versa. Be clear... they un­der­stand what you want. SAGIT­TAR­IUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21) Travel plans might be changed or de­layed to­day. Sim­i­larly, sched­ules re­lated to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties or higher train­ing might also be changed or de­layed. Be very clear about all de­tails re­lated to reser­va­tions and tick­et­ing. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) If you are re­spon­si­ble for the wealth or pos­ses­sions of oth­ers, dou­ble-check ev­ery­thing to­day. Sim­i­larly, make friends with your bank ac­count and make sure that you haven’t as­sumed things are OK when in fact they’re not! You could be over­drawn or cheques might be bounc­ing. (Aag­ghh!) AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18) Part­ner­ships and ro­mance have been a lot of fun for many of you lately. How­ever, to­day this is an area where con­fu­sion and dis­ap­point­ment might oc­cur. Do not as­sume that oth­ers know what you want or ex­pect. Be very clear about your ex­pec­ta­tions. Sim­i­larly, make sure you know what they ex­pect of you. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20) Some­thing that is work-re­lated or pos­si­bly re­lated to your health could cause you some con­cern to­day. But do take note: it is a strong pos­si­bil­ity this is sim­ply due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing or some mis­in­for­ma­tion. Dou­ble-check ev­ery­thing. TO­DAY’S BIRTHDAY TV host/cook­book au­thor Padma Lak­shmi (1970) shares your birthday. You ex­press your­self very phys­i­cally with­out in­hi­bi­tions. (You’re fear­less.) You are pas­sion­ate about what­ever you do and you don’t take short­cuts. You give it your all. You’re a straight shooter who is al­ways charm­ing. Above all, you’re a sur­vivor. Your year ahead will be de­light­fully so­cial and will ben­e­fit all your re­la­tion­ships. En­joy!

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