One last hurrah for students before Jim Bob Ray's reinvents itself

Kelly Samuel // GAZETTE

This past week, Facebook exploded with posts about Jim Bob Ray’s, a student night-life staple since, closing its doors by the end of the month. While this is true, there was some miscommunication as to what is actually happening to the bar.

Owner Mike Smith wants to be sure people realize that JBRs is not closing down per-se, but rather rebranding itself into Toboggan Brew Co., a craft beer brewery, pub and restaurant.

“We’re not closing. We’re changing the name, keeping the same staff and will be open more hours,” Smith said.

Smith is excited about the transition, saying that opening a craft brewery on Richmond Row is something he has wanted to do for some time now. He explained that keeping Jim Bob’s operating as it is now has become financially unfeasible. The government charges bars much higher prices on alcohol than the at-home consumer, and once increased minimum wages and high sales taxes are added to that, the drink prices become too high for students to afford, he said.

“Because of this, they pre-drink at home, and places like Jim Bob’s only get busy for the last three hours of the night,” Smith said.

Toboggan is going to be open longer and offer more of a pub atmosphere, as well as function as a restaurant for students and Londoners to eat at. He also said businesses will now be able to hold corporate events on site.

“We’re going to be open seven days a week at 11:30 a.m., so we’ll be open as late, just starting earlier,” Smith explained. “We’re putting in a full kitchen. We’re going to have Neopolitan style pizza, we’ve put a smoker in forBBQ, more vegetarian items, a full menu … we’re going to open the patio, it’s going to be a beer garden.”

According to Oliver Shanks, co-founder and CEO of CDN Entertainment Inc., this transition will boost London’s nightlife scene, providing something different for everyone to enjoy.

“Not everyone is built for the packed bars, generic music, and DJs. Toboggan is going to be offering a fun atmosphere, amazing food and craft beer. You see this trend happening in Toronto and other major cities and it’s exciting to see it coming to London,” Shanks said.

Originally, the transition was supposed to happen at the beginning of April. However it is now scheduled to occur later than originally stated. CDN Entertainment is hosting an event, “The Finale” over several days to celebrate the end of the JBRs era. There are guest-list events on Wednesday, March 25 and Friday, March 27 that include drink specials and different musical themes. The biggest, final party will happen on Saturday, March 28 and is open to anyone who wants to cheers to their good-times at the bar.

Shanks says he wanted to host this party for the students before exams begin, but he knows Smith will be having his own farewell parties for JBR’s loyalists and London locals closer to the actual date of transition.

As for whether or not CDN Entertainment will play a role in student events at Toboggan in the future is still being negotiated.

“We are in our negotiation phase at the moment with Toboggan, but some programming you might see is live music, trivia nights, karaoke and exclusive craft beer seasonal tastings,” Shanks said.

You can visit the JBRs Finale Facebook page for more information on the farewell festivities.

University Students' Council President Matt Helfand agrees that the closing of JBRs and opening of Toboggan will change the culture of downtown. Knowing the importance of nightlife in London for many students Western experience, Helfand would like to wish both Smith and CDN Entertainment good luck with the transition and final events at JBRs.

“I wish the owners all the best as they move forward with the transition to a new venue. As far as a finale event is concerned, I wish CDN Entertainment the very best, and I hope that people can enjoy the JBRs finale in a fun and safe manner,” Helfand said.

Smith promises Toboggan will continue JBR’s tradition as a place where Western students can come and spend time with friends.

“We’ll be a few weeks before we can do the complete branding turnover, we’ve been operating as Jim Bob’s in the meantime. If we close, it will only be for a few days just to do some finishing touches," he said.

“We want to open now because exams are coming up and the school year will be over at the end of April, we want people to see what we’re doing so when they come back in the fall, they see what it’s going to be.”

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