Hot Night Spot in Boyle Street
Brilliant music and a creative atmosphere are putting Brittany’s Lounge on Edmonton’s cultural map
If you’ve had your eye on Brittany’s Lounge – an entertainment venue tucked away in the strip of unassuming rectangular businesses located along 97 Street and 102 Avenue – but stopped short of pushing your way through the black velvet curtains that line the front entrance, in the off chance it may be the kind of joint where you’ll get an order of “adult entertainment” to go with your beer and appie, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
Since opening her doors in October 2011, owner Brittany Halford (yup, she’s the Brittany) admits to having one heck of a time spreading the word to downtown office workers and nearby residents that she’s open for business.
“I’ve had a lot of people comment that they thought this was a sketchy place or a strip club,” laughs Halford, a warm pixie of a woman with a deep raspy voice and straight-shooting disposition, conjuring up images of someone who would have made a killing running a bar in a place like Dawson City during the Gold Rush.
The irony, jokes Halford, is that if Brittany’s was indeed a strip club, “Everyone in the city would know about it, and it would be full.”
Not that “full” was what she was aiming for. At least, not right off the bat.
After losing her original location on Rice Howard Way in the same fire that forced beloved dining establishments like Bistro Praha and Co Co Di to also relocate, Halford set her sights on the Boyle Street area as the place to manifest her dream of creating a high-quality Vaudeville-esqe venue. A place where professional artists in the theatre, music, and burlesque scenes could adopt as their off-the-clock “playground” to perform and, well, “just have fun.”
Halford says she also wanted it to be the kind of place where lawyers could mingle with painters. And office workers, needing to blow off some steam and relax before heading home after work, could loosen their ties, order a pint of beer, and check out some quality live music.
“When you have to build a place from scratch twice in a matter of a couple of years, you learn a lot.,” she says, admitting that the banks probably would have preferred her to “fill the place with loud music and young guys drinking tons of beer” in order to improve her cash flow.
However, despite a slow start, Halford has remained true to her original vision.
“I knew I needed to wait for the right people with the right passion to turn it in to what it’s supposed to be.”
And sure enough, the right people, though not yet in droves, are indeed dropping by. People like musician Bill Bourne, who used to play weekly performances in the late afternoons on Brittany’s stage. Or jazz icon PJ Perry, who Halford says dropped in out of the blue one day and said he’d been looking for a room just like hers to gig in (PJ now performs every Wednesday from 8-11 p.m. and Friday from 4-7 p.m.).
There’s even talk of hosting a regular “open mic” featuring members from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from across the street, so those who want to jam with other musicians or perform their side projects outside of the symphonic realm in front of a live audience, have the opportunity.
Halford describes her clientele as “very eclectic,” ranging in age from 18 and 20 year-olds all the way up to people in their 70s and 80s. The one consistency she says is not a matter of demographics but of maturity.
“People come in here because they are looking for something different,” she says. “They are looking for something calm and something friendly. It’s a place where they can sit back and capitalize on the creative energy all around them.”
Brittany’s Lounge is located at 10225 97 Street and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 4 p.m. until close. For more information about events call (780) 697-0011 or check out Brittany’s on Facebook.
Jodie is a writer who lives in Boyle Street.