Edmonton businesses bloom with consecutive conventions

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Edmonton has hosted several conferences, conventions, and other similar events this spring, which has brought some welcome business to restaurants nearby.

As a capital city with big hotels and grand convention centres, Edmonton is no stranger to hosting conferences or conventions. While the attendees may come from far and wide and only stay a while, they leave a lasting impact on the businesses that get a boost while they’re here.

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Fu’s Repair Shop is a popular local Asian restaurant with a big reputation. Previously listed as a top 30 restaurant in Canada, the local spot has been a hit in the city and across the country. Next week, it will play host to some networking events for the Upper Bound AI conference, which the restaurant’s co-owner and events and marketing director, Kyla Kazeil, said they were excited to do.

“It’s so great to see more kind of activation and traffic coming back to downtown Edmonton. And hosting all these larger conferences has been really great for the city,” said Kazeil.

Fu’s relationship with the tech world began shortly after it moved into its current Jasper Ave. locale. One of the first events the restaurant hosted was for the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), which is hosting the Upper Bounds conference.

While it might not look like it from the outside, behind the quiet single door on Jasper is not just a full restaurant, but a large event space with the capacity for more than 200 people, where the networking is scheduled to happen.

fu's repair shop
Fu’s Repair Shop on Jasper Avenue will be hosting several networking events for the Upper Bound artificial intelligence convention at the Edmonton Convention Centre from May 21 to 24, expanding the impact of the event to local businesses. Zac Delaney/Postmedia Photo by Zac Delaney /Postmedia

But it’s not just affiliated events boosting Fu’s business. According the Kazeil, the recent Rendez-vous Canada tourism conference at the Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC) brought in several customers, too.

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In the past month, the ECC has hosted, among other things, the Hydrogen Convention and Rendez-vous Canada, and is set to host Upper Bound next week, bringing in roughly 10,000 people combined. In north Edmonton, the Edmonton EXPO centre has hosted a tattoo festival in April, is currently hosting volleyball nationals, and will be hosting an auto show and video game convention in the coming months.

East of ECC, Continental Treat Fine Bistro’s Jasper Ave location is in prime real estate to benefit from all the convention action.

“It’s like having a second shot of espresso in your americano,” said Continental owner, Sylvester Barowka of the boost from the events.

“It’s helped us tremendously.”

Barowka said Continental Treat Fine Bistro opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which made for some tough first years at the location. With more traffic returning to Downtown Edmonton, he said that the restaurant is doing better now.

To keep it strong, he said the restaurant always keeps an eye on the event schedule of the ECC to make sure they’re primed to make the most of the extra people in the area.

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With a seating capacity of 150, Barowka said on an average night the restaurant usually has roughly 100 customers. During an event like the hydrogen convention last month, that number swelled 50 per cent.

While many restaurants near the Ice District have benefited from the traffic driven by the Edmonton Oilers’ playoff run, Barowka said that the same traffic doesn’t hit the southeast edges in the same way, making convention traffic all the more impactful.

The benefits of the events aren’t just limited to downtown near the ECC, either. Event impact can hit other areas of the city that have also been left by the Oilers rush.

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Once upon a time when Edmonton’s north side hosted the Edmonton Oilers at the Coliseum, a long-standing local restaurant nearby with a similar namesake shared in the profits of the team.

Coliseum Steak & Pizza on 118 Ave. used to welcome throngs of Oilers-clad customers because of its proximity to the old arena.

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“When the Oilers were playing at the Coliseum, of course we were busy but our business would come two hours before game time, and then that would be it,” said Coliseum co-owner, Dimitra Scordas, who’s been at the restaurant since her father opened it in 1976.

Since the team moved, the restaurant has welcomed a different clientele from the Edmonton EXPO Centre.

“It’s more like a steady kind of business. Like, we’ll get people all during the night. People coming from the shows, people going, so it’s more steady. A better business for us,” said Scordas.

She estimated that the restaurant gets a roughly 40 per cent boost from Expo events and figured that the most popular events driving traffic to Coliseum were the Home and Garden and Boat and Sportsmen shows.

Whether it’s Downtown or not, Kazeil said she was happy for any businesses coming to the city.

“I think that any traffic and activation that’s happening in the city of Edmonton, whether it’s downtown or really anywhere in the city, if it’s bringing people in from other places it’s great,” said Kazeil.

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