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The upscale new face of Old Montreal

More laid-back scene smacks of sophistication

Maxine MendelssohnFor Canwest News Service

 

Sunday, March 09, 2008

 

 

First came boutique hotels and condos, then yoga studios and shops. Now it's bars, supper clubs and a vibrant nightlife: Old Montreal has become a party destination in its own right.

 

And its more laid-back scene is attracting some of the club kids who once clambered to get into the city's hot spots.

 

While these places still pack in the crowds, a bit of fete fatigue has set in on Montreal's two traditional party streets -- Crescent St. and St. Laurent Blvd.

 

The lineups that don't move, some as long as 100 people, the hefty price tag on drinks; it can be a bit much.

 

Now, chic partiers co-exist nicely with tourists in horse-drawn caleches winding their way through the cobblestone streets. New resto-bars like Santos, Wilson and Cherry are becoming popular destinations, offering their own brand of chic decor, fancy drinks and a party atmosphere.

 

On the weekends, smaller bars in Old Montreal are often filled to capacity, but the larger ones have plenty of breathing room.

 

"In the Old Port, if they don't let you in it's not because you're not having bottle service, it's because there's no room."

 

Some party places on St. Laurent Blvd. have become so in demand that they only let in customers who order bottle service, which can cost upwards of $300. The 20- and 30-somethings who flock to Old Montreal want intimate dinners and drinks, not teens flaunting cash and downing rows of vodka shooters.

 

There are occasional, small lineups and only one club has a cover charge in Old Montreal. It's definitely easier to get your foot in the door.

 

"They make it easy and appealing to party here," said 27-year-old Maria Toumanova. "Everything is getting a facelift and people are coming down to check it out. It's a great alternative to the common party places downtown."

 

Dimitri Antonopoulos has been betting heavily on Old Montreal for the last eight years. His company, the Antonopoulos Group, owns a number of Old Montreal hot spots including Suite 701, Mechant Boeuf and the Place d'Armes Hotel, which opened in 2000.

 

"The W Hotel (which opened four years later) also helped bring people down here, then restaurants and nice shops started opening up, too. All these businesses attracted a savvier customer and hipper tourists," said Antonopoulos, VP of marketing.

 

Mechant Boeuf is Antonopoulos's newest venture. There is always a place to sit, and conversations don't require yelling, something that's standard at the downtown clubs.

 

"These are discerning partiers," Antonopoulos said.

 

"They know the ins and outs of clubbing, but they're growing up and maybe they want something different. It's a new market in Montreal."

 

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Indeed !! Pour ma part, j'apprend des noms de places que je ne connais pas (il faut dire que ça fait plus de 20 ans que je ne sort plus). J'ai souvent des clients qui sont dans des hôtels du Vieux-Montréal qui me demandent des endroits où ils peuvent sortir le soir et je suis assez ignare en cette matière.

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