Toronto-based Bier Markt opens on Sparks Street

A popular Toronto-based restaurant chain has opened on Sparks Street raising expectations that it will boost business throughout the downtown shopping district.

Bier Markt, famous for the 150-plus kinds of beer on its menu, specializes in Eastern European food with a beer to match every dish. It opened at the corner of Sparks and O’Connor streets on Nov. 17.

Robert Medal, operational partner for Bier Markt Ottawa, says the restaurant brings an international flavour to its food and beverages.

“The mantra has always been to travel the world without having to leave your barstool,” Medal says.

The chain has five locations in Toronto and one in Montreal. According to a Bier Markt press release, the Ottawa location was in the works for a while before the Sparks Street location finally opened up. 

Kevin McHale, program and event co-coordinator for the Sparks Street Business Improvement Area, says the opening of Bier Markt is a big step for the pedestrian mall.

“I think that it’s great, and I think overall the benefits for the Sparks Street area and the merchants in the area are fantastic,” McHale says.

Sparks Street has been in the midst of a revitalization effort, headed mainly by former Sparks Street BIA executive director Les Gagne. Gagne was recently let go for unknown reasons after two high-profile years in the position.

Earlier this year, Gagne had heralded the planned arrival of Bier Markt as a major victory for Sparks Street. 

“Sparks Street is going to have the merchants that we’ve been wanting to have for a long time,” Gagne said earlier this summer. 

Medal said the opening should give a boost to all merchants by attracting more consumers to the area.

“It’s a great thing for Sparks Street because Sparks Street needs a . . . little push in the right direction to not just bring people down to Sparks Street, but to bring other businesses down to Sparks Street,” Medal said.

Janaki Mody owns the Parliament Pub, located one block down from Bier Markt on Sparks Street. She said that while the new watering hole may hurt business at first, it will help in the long run. 

“It’s not…competition, we’re sort of different establishments…I think it’s a good thing, it’ll bring more people down to the street, hopefully,” says Mody.

“It’s known name, a little different atmosphere than other places on the street, so it gives variety for people to come up and venture around.”

The Bier Markt will mainly be targeting the public servants and business people who work in the downtown core, Medal says.

“We’ll be targeting sort of 25- to 50-year-olds, primarily white collar, people that have travelled, that do travel regularly, and that have a holiday appetite for international flavours both in beverage and in food,” he says.

The restaurant is 8,800 sq. feet, and seats 250 people between the dinning area and the bar. 

McHale says co-operation between the BIA and businesses helps ensure a better street all-round. 

“It’s just a matter of trying to do their part to make sure that Sparks Street is as good as Sparks Street can be . . . It goes both ways. If they help us, we can help them and it benefits both organizations,” McHale says.

Sparks Street has untapped potential as a hub of Ottawa culture and activity, Medal says, especially in the summer.

“I’m in love with the street and the potential that the street has . . . and just the fact that it’s completely a pedestrian thoroughfare in the summer,” he says. “You can do wonderful things out there and create an energy that you can’t have when there are cars zipping back and forth.

“We’re going to do our best with our little piece of Sparks Street, but we certainly hope that the rest of the area will start to come along as well.”