McGinnis gives up its Front Row seat

13:38 Jan 10, 2014 · News · By Joanna Cotarlea

Juil Yoon

Reddit users began lamenting the closure of McGinnis FrontRow in early December. “Going to miss it. Really enjoyed watching hockey, eating poutine, and drinking beer there,” wrote Reddit user JodoYodo.

A University Plaza hotspot for 30 years, McGinnis FrontRow shut its doors to the public as of Dec. 2, 2013. The sports bar — run by restaurant group Big Night Restaurants — unexpectedly announced its closure Nov. 29, 2013.

FrontRow general manager of 10 years, Cindy Fawcett, blamed the closure on increased competition, aging buildings, and the plaza’s notoriously high rent, and dispelled rumours of bankruptcy and police involvement.

“We just didn’t have the flash and the flair that we were competing against,” Fawcett said. With the recent openings of Beertown and Shoeless Joe’s patios, competition for restaurant patrons in the Waterloo area greatly increased, according to Fawcett.

Increased investments in technology couldn’t keep up with the aging building and high carrying costs, “In order to stay competitive, we had to give the restaurant a facelift,” Fawcett said.

Sports bars face the additional costs of updated televisions and cable packages, which ran up to $700-800 monthly for sports TV packages.

“Carrying costs were so high that you can’t afford to not be busy,” Fawcett said, while patrons would often be unhappy with the bustling atmosphere.

Struggling with a $20,000 monthly rent and the slow months of December and January approaching, Fawcett concluded: “It costs less for us [to shut down].”

Looking for a seller turned up no leads either. “The rent there was so crazy that nobody would,” Fawcett said. “I wouldn’t say that we didn’t exhaust all of our options.”

As the owners of Big Night Restaurants are based in London, Ont., the increased demands with no payoffs made McGinnis FrontRow more trouble than profitable. Fawcett explained that it would be unfair to risk the finances of Big Night Restaurants’ London restaurants to prop up FrontRow’s losses.

As for Fawcett, her plans for the future are unsure; “I put my heart into that place for the last 14 years. It’s been my home. It was my university job, and then when I graduated university, I started managing it.”

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