HFX Sports Bar and Grill

Making the Transition from Nightclub to Sports Entertainment Hub
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Sean Barr

Marcel and Michel Khoury are opening a new entertainment establishment, HFX Sports Bar and Grill (HFX), in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The brothers grew up in the food service and entertainment business, and as owners of the former New Palace Nightclub in Halifax, the pair has been involved in the industry since an early age.

“When I was 9, I started working with my father filling vending machines,” explains Marcel. “He really instilled the business mentality in us. Our father, Jerry Khoury, emigrated from Lebanon and was successful. He taught us great work ethics, church values and that family takes priority. Through him, we learned what it takes to build and keep up a good reputation in business.”

Marcel goes on to explain that he worked for the family business with his father and graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in history with a political science minor from Dalhousie University. “That’s when I got into business,” Marcel recounts. “I was very much into marketing. When I was about 22, our father stepped back and we started to take over. The last 12 years of our dad’s life, we ran things for him.”

The family has owned the property on Brunswick Street in Halifax since 1987, which has operated as numerous namesakes over the years. “My brother and I are business partners,” Marcel notes. “Jerry handed down the business before he passed away in 2010.”

This industry seems to be the brothers’ niche, as the duo also owns and operates Halifax Alehouse. “We have noticed trends and habits changing in the last few years within our industry,” Marcel explains. “We traveled around a bit and saw that people want a one-stop location for entertainment. Our demographic doesn’t bar hop as much and people want to sit down, eat, drink and be entertained. We thought of a new concept.”

A Real Game Changer

The brothers have been working tirelessly over the last eight months to create a world-class sports bar, lounge and restaurant. “The finishing touches are going in as we speak,” Marcel notes, “And it is truly breathtaking. Initially, we had anticipated a $2 million investment; however, we have now approached $2.5 million in expenditures, not including existing leaseholds we had prior to construction. It can be argued, if we were to start from scratch, this would be at least a $4 million project, and it really shows.”

Marcel explains that the old target markets are fading or moving away; therefore, it is time to diversify. “Pubs and bars have weathered the storm, but night clubs have had a tough time,” he continues. “We have always been trying to stay ahead of the curve, so we decided to make a huge investment as far as Atlantic Canada goes. We’re working along the concept of a sports theatre, lounge and restaurant.”

Marcel has seen similar – thriving – operations in Las Vegas, Toronto and New York. “Sports bars were becoming upper class and accepted in places where people might have previously sipped wine,” he details. “We are building an upscale lounge combined with sports entertainment.”

High-tech Entertainment

With more than 200 bars in Halifax, HFX will stand out as a unique venue in the city. “When I was younger, you had to go out downtown to meet and be social,” Marcel recalls. “Now with social media and dating sites, technology has had an impact on the business. The college-age demographic is staying in more, while young professionals are going out and enjoying themselves with a meal and a few drinks. Halifax’s new mayor has some great urban revitalization ideas and the city’s vibrant city center is growing in a new direction.”

Marcel and Michel have taken all of these market changes into account when building the new space. From atmosphere to high-tech features, HFX will offer a totally unique experience. The space features 16 large LED flat panel televisions as the main screen, 10 feet tall by 17 feet wide. A feature wall presents matrix televisions with additional LED screens scattered throughout the space in booths and even in the bathroom. Each booth set also has its own controls, allowing clientele to choose what to watch.

“We have added state-of-the-art technology, where customers will be able to tap into an audio distribution network,” Marcel adds. “This works by customers downloading a free app, then they will have the ability to tune into any of our 14 channels via smartphone and listen to that television through headphones. We have heard numerous complaints from customers frequenting other establishments that this is a pet peeve. Usually, the main event will be broadcast through the main speakers. With our system, our customers will be able to listen to their favourite sporting event at any given time, on any television.”

A Culinary Adventure

While sports are the center of the action at HFX, the venue offers more than just a place to catch the game (or the other game, or the other game…). Marcel and Michel are working with a strong kitchen team to develop a menu featuring unique items inspired by local flavors and foreign cuisine. The team has installed a full-range state-of-the-art kitchen. The restaurant will serve upper casual fare, as well as pub food.

“The plan is to do everything from scratch, with no frozen food, if possible,” Marcel notes. “We have drafted a menu of unique dishes. We have been to Thailand, New Zealand, Brazil, Spain and Italy and we have put dishes in to the menu from our experiences. Chicken and waffles is getting big, as well as flatbreads. Chefs in Montreal create some great things, and our kitchen staff is looking in that direction too for inspiration. Customers can expect a medium price-point range with higher end dishes, as well as pub classics, such as burgers and nachos.”

HFX will offer the whole package. Marcel and Michel are paying attention to the details, ensuring a well-rounded experience that caters to a broad range of price points and individual tastes. The brothers plan a soft opening for early January 2014, and a grand opening shortly after. HFX Sports Bar and Grill promises a thrill for sports fans, foodies and anyone looking for a fun place to unwind in Halifax.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Bird Construction
Elegant Flooring
GB Millwork