These walls do talk at Leopold’s Tav­ern

Pa­trons donate unique items that help make up decor of Saskatchewan chain

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY+REGION -

REGINA When Lo­gan Richards walks into Leopold’s Tav­ern with his good friend, he can of­ten hear the groans from other pa­trons.

The duo al­ways try to outdo each other to see who can play the sad­dest coun­try song on the juke­box, much to the cha­grin of other cus­tomers.

It’s one of the rea­sons Richards has been a reg­u­lar at the orig­i­nal Leopold’s — or Leo’s as the lo­cals call it — since it opened in 2013.

“I like the in­ti­macy of it,” he says. “You come in dur­ing the day and it will feel like a dive bar, and then at night you can come in ... and if 40 peo­ple are in here, it feels like 200.”

Leopold’s is a uniquely Saskatchewan chain that’s ex­pand­ing through­out West­ern Canada. There are eight lo­ca­tions, and the hole-in-the-wall on Al­bert Street, just north of Saskatchewan’s Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in Regina’s Cathe­dral neigh­bour­hood, is al­ways packed.

The name orig­i­nates from Leopold Ge­orge Dun­can Al­bert, the eighth child of Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert. A gi­ant poster of the Duke of Al­bany can be found at each lo­ca­tion.

Co-founder Matt Pinch, 40, says when the first Leopold’s opened he and a group of five friends wanted a place in their home­town to call their own.

“It wasn’t re­ally our in­tent to make it a big busi­ness or any­thing like that. It was kind of for us.”

And though three ad­di­tional lo­ca­tions are planned for this year in­clud­ing one in Vic­to­ria, Pinch says main­tain­ing sim­plic­ity in the es­thetic is what gives each bar a Saskatchewan flavour.

“I think that’s sort of the na­ture of Saskatchewan. Good, hard­work­ing, but sim­ple peo­ple.”

THE WALLS

A dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture of any Leo’s is the walls.

Stay­ing true to its dive-bar am­bi­tions, Pinch says he and his co-own­ers took junk from their base­ments that their wives wouldn’t let them put in their houses and slapped it on the wall. Even­tu­ally cus­tomers were al­lowed to add their own con­tri­bu­tions.

Among the items you can find at the orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion are: acous­tic gui­tars, Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers ap­parel, tire rims, li­cence plates, front pages of the Regina Leader-post, high heels and a cig­a­rette with a sign at­tached “Re­served for Slash.”

“It makes it feel like it’s their own bar,” Pinch says. “It’s part of their com­mu­nity.”

Matt Hjorth, an­other reg­u­lar cus­tomer who also fre­quents the Leopold’s in the north end of the city, says he put some­one’s board­ing pass on the wall at the north­ern lo­ca­tion be­cause he had a good con­ver­sa­tion with them one night.

“I don’t know how I ended up with their board­ing pass but I was like, ‘you know what? We’re go­ing to com­mem­o­rate this night, and I’m go­ing to put your board­ing pass right here and just pin it up on the wall,”’ Hjorth says.

One of the strangest re­cent ad­di­tions in­cludes a bag of rice. It was given to the bar af­ter some­one spilled some­thing on their phone and staff de­cided it was wor­thy for a wall ad­di­tion.

“And now it’s there, any­one can use it,” says Leopold’s re­gional man­ager AJ Schep­ers.

Ev­ery lo­ca­tion is dec­o­rated to con­form to the neigh­bour­hood it’s sit­u­ated in.

THE SIZE

The orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion has a ca­pac­ity of 60 peo­ple and it’s a trend that stays true at other Leopold’s as well.

Pinch says the size is an im­por­tant fac­tor and go­ing any big­ger would take away the sense of com­mu­nity they’re try­ing to cre­ate.

Hav­ing a small bar also forces you to talk to the per­son be­side you, which Pinch says is a good thing.

“In this day and age, ev­ery­one is so con­nected on their phones and the art of one-on-one per­sonal con­ver­sa­tion is sort of some­what off. Hav­ing a small place sort of forces that to hap­pen and that in­ter­ac­tion builds com­mu­nity in­side the bar and the com­mu­nity it­self.”

MICHAEL BEL/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bar­tender Mi­randa Holt, cen­tre, speaks to reg­u­lars at one of the Leopold’s Tav­erns in Regina. The small chain’s own­ers try to con­form to what­ever neigh­bour­hood they are in.

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