Talk about down to the wire.
When Whitehorse’s newest bar opened on Saturday, workers were still laying planks of hardwood on concrete until 9 p.m.
Then local folk-rockers Fishhead Stew tuned up their instruments and people hit the newly built dance floor.
Foxy’s Cabaret was up and running.
The venue, located in the old Legion building on Alexander Street, held a peak of 165 customers that night. Owner Gerald Budzinski sees the turn-out as proof there’s pent-up demand in town for a cozy place to listen to local bands over a beer.
The way he sees things, there’s been a hole in the heart of Whitehorse’s music scene ever since the Taku Inn, adored by local musicians, closed in the autumn of 2007.
Budzinski, 41, is betting that Foxy’s can help fill it – and make a buck while he’s at it.
The opening of Foxy’s is also the realization of one of Budzinski’s dreams. “I’ve always wanted to own a business,” he said.
And he’s always found himself chasing the magical feeling of when a great rock band connects with a crowd, which inevitably leads people to later boast: “I was there.”
“Now I can say, I was.”
Budzinski is unabashedly a rock partisan. He laments how other local haunts cater to a younger crowd by blaring techno. He figures this has alienated older bargoers, such as himself, who desire “music that doesn’t make you want to tear your eyes out.”
Foxy’s roster of local acts already includes CHS, Sophisticated Cavemen and Ryan McNally. And Budzinski has succeeded in wooing over Peggy Hanifan’s long-running Whitewater Jam.
He hopes to regularly feature new bands and have them compete for a chance to play on a Friday or Saturday.
The venue boasts a total of 3,900 square feet, including its upstairs mezzanine, and a capacity of 175 people. That dwarfs other local haunts for music lovers, such as the Goldrush Inn, which is frequently filled to capacity on busy nights, leaving a long lineup of unhappy would-be customers loitering outside.
Seventeen-foot ceilings should also offer superior acoustics against the competition, said Budzinski. Unlike elsewhere, he figures someone sitting in the back of his bar will be able to carry on a conversation while the music is playing with only a minimum of shouting.
And while many bars are built around, well, the bar, Budzinski says that Foxy’s is designed around the stage, which is built at a slant to direct music toward the opposite corner of the room.
A blue pool table sits in the centre of the bar, offset by the bold red and black paint on the walls. Used wooden tables and sets have been scrounged from a variety of sources, including the old Discovery Inn.
At the bar, a 13.5-ounce glass of Chilkoot currently goes for $4, but Budzinski plans to hike prices soon to $5.25.
It will be another six months until the kitchen is fully functional. Until then, hungry customers will have to make do with a coldcut sandwich.
Budzinski envisions the menu will offer burgers, meat skewers, soups and salads, but no deep-fried foods. He’s aiming higher than typical pub grub.
Even more audacious is his plan to institute a dress code, however lax. He calls it “Yukon formal.”
“No coveralls,” he said. “No dirt or oil on them.”
Jeans and T-shirts are acceptable, provided they aren’t grubby. The test, he said, is whether “people are worried about rubbing up against you.”
As a dangling carrot of encouragement, Budzinski also plans to offer prizes to the best-dressed customers on weekends.
“I’m trying to improve the way people dress,” said Budzinski. “Over time, I think this will have a positive influence.”
Here’s where Foxy’s breaks from the past: a dress-code at the Taku would have been unthinkable.
Budzinski is by day a realtor – he took a month off his job with Coldwell Banker to launch Foxy’s. His background, he says, helped him see through the old Legion’s worn-out appearance when he decided to lease the locale.
Prior to getting into the real-estate business in 1998, Budzinski helped run his parents’ RV rental company. He figures that experience will also serve him well in running the company with his girlfriend and business partner, Mahalia McGowan, who serves as the bookkeeping brains of the operation.
Budzinski is currently pulling 16-hour days. But he’s not too worried about being overloaded with two jobs when he returns to realty.
In the past, he spent his fair share of time in bars, chatting up potential clients. Now, “I can build relationships here,” he said.
Foxy’s is open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. In about two months’ time, Budzinski plans to start opening from noon until 2 p.m. to serve soup and sandwiches. He figures there are plenty of downtown government workers who are currently being underserved for lunch.
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