The modest sports bar on Boulevard St-Laurent Champs reopened its doors yesterday, after a prolonged hiatus of several years. New owners are now at the helm – and they say they are eager to shed the “usual bravado” that many find inextricable from the sports bar atmosphere.
“I think there is an outdated stigma attached to sports bars in general, that they are these strongholds of violent sports dudes who smash cans of beer,” said Sarah Fobes, filmmaker, sports writer and one of the new bar owners. .
For the project, she is joined by Raphael Kerwin, owner of the Blue Dog Motel bar (on the ground floor of the same building), and five other anonymous partners of the Montreal music and night scene.
Champs will maintain that low-key, no-frills dive bar energy that has made it a staple on the Main for decades, but in its latest incarnation, owners say they want to make sure “everyone feels welcome. “. Fobes says the law society’s inclusive hiring and zero-tolerance customer service policies will reflect this.
A queer woman who has been covering the sport for 15 years, Fobes says she has always been a fan of watching games in a crowded bar – “everyone goes wild and let off steam when a goal or a touchdown is scored.” She’s originally from Yellowknife, but spent a good chunk of her twenties on the West Coast watching sports “in ‘straight’ sports bars with an army of beer-can-crushing lesbians,” she says. “It was so much fun and I always felt safe.”
This is the environment that she and her partners hope to foster with the restart of Champs, originally opened in the 1980s, in a building constructed a little over 40 years earlier. Over the years, the four-story structure has housed a number of restaurants and bars, including a Bucharest lounge and steakhouse and a Portuguese Algarve Sol restaurant and banquet hall. Today it is home to The Diving Bell Social Club upstairs and Barbossa and Blue Dog bars downstairs. Fobes says the team is happy to bring one more hotel business back into the fold; Champs is on the second floor.
The space received a small facelift, including the replacement of electronic slot machines (VLTs) with arcade games and the creation of a 25-person wine bar where the Champs cuisine was located. . Fobes says the added wine corner will also broadcast sports games, but can be reserved for private events, with the wine offering crafted by Mano Cornuto’s sommelier, Rob Clarke. As the food was no longer prepared on site, Champs called on the neighboring restaurant La Main Folle to deliver pizzas directly to their tables.
For all that has changed at the Plateau mainstay, Fobes says customers can still count on the basics: sport on screens and cheap beer galore.
Champs is now open at 3956 boulevard St-Laurent. Check her Instagram account for updates on opening hours.