The Common
By Becky Hagan-Egyir

Setting the Standard

When entering The Common, there’s a distinct space that easily converts from a dining room to a dance floor. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve stepped back into the familiar room of someone’s home; a room where stacks of vinyls line one wall and the other has familiar faces of legends, like Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe, hanging from gilded frames. And when evening comes, that’s when the change begins. That same room steadily moves towards a dance floor packed with bodies carried away by a variety of songs – everything from hip hop to favourite throwbacks or the acoustics and bass of a live rock band.

All of this makes The Common feel like the kind of space whose goal is defining the standard of a good time. Ask where to go for something different for snacks – the answer just might be “The Common" with starter dishes like truffle popcorn, drizzled with melted butter and covered with seasonings of thyme and white truffles.  Ask where to go for an unconventional karaoke night – here, there’s a Hip Hop Karaoke event every now and then. Staples like these have been years in the making; and, in August 2016, The Common celebrated its seventh anniversary.

You get to know people, and we have a lot of regulars here at The Common. - Nicole Skakun, manager
The Common is a restaurant that turns into a music venue and dance floor hangout in the evenings
When it comes to music, Nicole Erin's go-to sound is the ‘60s and ‘70s, the sounds of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Photo by Patrick Zubiri

A Thriving Scene

Seven years ago, Nicole Skakun walked through the doors of The Bamboo Ballroom, looking for work. The store was being run by the future owners of The Common – and eventually, Nicole would begin to work at The Common’s old location, on 124 Street, until the bar and lounge reached its new home at the Grandin location on 109 Street.

While working at The Common one thing that’s always stood out for Nicole is the people. “You get to know people,” she says, “and we have a lot of regulars here at The Common – kind of like if you go to local coffee shops, and you get to know people…” Her time serving regulars would eventually lead to her current responsibilities as a manager, where she sees her most challenging task as this: “Ensuring that everyone’s happy,” she says.

The Common’s role as a place for musicians to perform their art plays a key role in ensuring that happiness. “In terms of music, I think there’s a lot going on at the moment,” says Nicole. It was only a couple years ago, when it seemed as if too many beloved music venues were closing down. “But now, it’s truly flourishing,” she says.

New venues have opened — but there’s no sense of rivalry between them and The Common. What’s most important is the music itself. “Whether it’s a solo artist or a band, it’s just great the fact that you get to pour your heart out,” says Nicole. “It’s hard to get up there and share your talent.” And musicians come from as far as Vancouver, but some employees who play in bands share their talent here as well.

The Common serves up an eclectic cocktail menu, in addition to some locally sourced craft beers
Photo by Patrick Zubiri

The Formula for Success

Supporting local talent is one cornerstone of The Common; putting its own spin on events like brunch is another — like Hip Hop Brunch on Sundays. “[The managers and owners] thought it would be fun to open for brunch once in a while on Sundays,” says Nicole. And rotational dishes that change with the seasons are part of what draw people in as well. Ask Nicole what her favourite items on the menu are and she’ll quickly answer with a summer favourite, watermelon mojitos, and one of the staple dishes of Hip Hop Brunch, chicken and waffles.

Sour beers were introduced to the rotating drink menu this summer and are sourced from domestic breweries, including Situation Brewing. How have customers reacted to the new drink feature? “A lot of people really enjoy them,” says Nicole. “They were so nice for summer, and they’re even still very nice for fall, still very palpable.” Drinks like these, together with events like Hip Hop Brunch, have become highlights at The Common. It's a place with a simple formula for success: it’s where you can have “really good food, good music, and just have a really good time!” says Nicole.

The Common serves up hip hop brunch on Sundays, a mix of music and good food, like chicken and waffles
Photo by Patrick Zubiri
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