Edmonton’s bar scene is saying hello to a new concept called Home and Away located right in the heart of downtown Edmonton. After Mercer Tavern announced its permanent closing on Aug. 31, 2021, the building has since been rebranding into a sports bar that offers local beers, locally sourced food, and even local DJs.
Sarmad Rizvi has expanded Home and Away from Calgary, where it was originally opened in 2015. “The concept has really resonated with people; it’s a mix of sports and music,” he says. After seeing the success of Home and Away in the bustling area of the Saddledome in downtown Calgary, Rizvi was invited to bring the bar to Edmonton by the previous Mercer Tavern owners. “Once we came and looked at the space, we couldn’t say no,” Rizvi says.
Rizvi has also incorporated his musical background into the bar, since he owned and operated The Hifi nightclub in Calgary for 15 years. “We built a nightclub when we wanted to party all night; then as we got older, we wanted to eat and watch the game, so we built Home and Away,” Rizvi says. He says that Home and Away incorporates all three of those aspects: music, sports, and food.
For Edmonton foodies, Home and Away has incorporated a scratch kitchen with locally sourced food for their guests. Their menu consists of what Rizvi calls “staple” food items such as pepperoni pizza, Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, and a variety of tacos. “It’s comfort food, but our twist on it,” he says.
For Edmonton’s vegetarians, Home and Away offers meatless options such as cauliflower tacos, as well as vegan and gluten-free options. “Almost all of our dishes can be gluten-free,” Rizvi says.
When it comes to beer, general manager Sam Brabbins says their menu has a focus on local breweries in Edmonton. Home and Away has partnered with Seachange, Alley Kat, SYC Brewing, and some western craft breweries such as Phillips and Parallel 49.
“Being sports forward, a lot of our beverage program is beer,” he says. The bar has 21 beer taps ranging from lagers to dark ales but also offers a classic cocktail list for guests.
Although opening a bar downtown can be competitive, Rizvi says that what sets Home and Away apart from the typical Edmonton bar scene is the music. The bar has two floors, both of which will be open on Friday and Saturday nights for different local DJs to play. Brendan Callandar, the bar’s assistant general manager, says that Home and Away aims to create a diverse and inclusive space and also wants to encourage a female-led DJ night at the bar.
For those who are looking to bar hop downtown for a change of scenery or music, Brabbins says the best part is that “you can go bar hopping here essentially between the upstairs and downstairs.”
Brabbins also says that not only is the new “sports-inspired party bar” a great place to grab a pint with friends but “what sets (the) bar apart is the aesthetic as soon as you walk in.”
“There’s a huge wow factor.”
From old sports lockers to Rizvi’s childhood hockey cards decorating the walls, the bar’s laid-back vibe is also sentimentally decorated. “Every piece of decor on the wall is a conversation starter,” Brabbins says.
Between Home and Away’s food menu, music, and decor, there is something for everyone. “You don’t have to like sports to come here,” Brabbins says. “If you wanna come here with your girlfriends to have a birthday party or to come and dance, it is very much the atmosphere for that too.”
Home and Away has not officially opened its doors yet, but will once COVID restrictions begin to relax. According to their Instagram page, it will be opening in March. After a hiring fair in December, the bar’s managers and staff are eager to open for Edmontonians looking for good food, good drinks, and a good time. Korri Pearson, the night manager, says that Home and Away will do an excellent job of “being a sports bar that also turns into a nightclub party atmosphere.” Home and Away is located at 10363 104th St and will announce their official opening date on their Instagram.
Photo: Brett Boyd