With Christmas less than a month away, The Savoy Brasserie in Westboro has kicked off the holiday season in style, opening a festive pop-up cocktail bar that gives back to local charity.
The Savoy is taking part for the first time, after the marked success of the original 'Miracle at The Savoy' at its sister restaurants in New York City.
The pop-up will include holiday-themed cocktails like the ‘Christmapolitan’ and the ‘Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r!,’ a play on the line from the movie ‘Die Hard,’ considered a Christmas movie by many.
One dollar from every drink sold over the 37 days of festivities will be donated to The Salvation Army Toy Mountain.
The Richmond Road eatery has been in existence for six years, and owned for the last three of those by local entrepreneur Jack Bisson, who has recently taken a more hands-on approach as operator and manager.
In an interview with OttawaMatters.com, he said he chose Toy Mountain as this year's charity because of his own experience growing up in an underprivileged home, where his mother usually needed help around Christmas time to make ends meet for he and his siblings.
“When I think of Christmas, I think of kids, and Toy Mountain is specifically geared towards kids,” he said.
“I don’t know if Toy Mountain existed back then, but I know my mother did get help at Christmas time giving us Christmas presents and I know she would have taken advantage of something like this if it existed."
Switching to business, Bisson’s humble roots played a part in his entrepreneurial background, too, as he worked as a bartender in university and in the service industry before he saved enough money and know-how to start his own business.
Bisson got his feet wet at a slow-paced bar while self-teaching and researching business before moving on to The Chateau Laurier, and then going off on his own.
“I never looked back, I guess, or never looked ahead, I don’t know how to look at it,” he joked.
Bisson now has his hands in many restaurants and businesses in the capital, but has recently focussed his attention on The Savoy, which he feels has been neglected, given its prominence, location and range of food offerings; from their well-known breakfast, brunch and lunch offering to its more elaborate French cuisine-inspired dinner options.
“Things are going in the right direction,” he said.
A self-proclaimed simple man, Bisson recommends the steak frite for customers, but notes a number of green and vegan friendly options are on the menu like their salads, which are his wife’s favourite.
He also offers some pretty simple advice for those who want to start own their own business: just because your passionate about something doesn’t automatically mean success, especially in the restaurant industry, which has an even higher failure rate than that of a regular small business.
“I’ve seen it in a few other industries as well, they think they can be successful just because they’re passionate about that particular industry and they think that just because they build it, they will come,” he said.
“If you have the passion, it’s an ingredient that you need to be successful, but you also need some numbers to back it up and some research,” he said, adding it’s the biggest hurdle he sees for entrepreneurs, and that even research doesn’t guarantee success, but it helps.
Back to the holiday festivities -- the 'Miracle at Savoy' pop-up bar runs through Dec. 31 and also includes an 'Ugly Christmas Sweater' party December 2 from 5 p.m. until close.
"It's a fun way for the people of Ottawa to come and experience a little bit of Christmas in Westboro and it's a lot of fun."