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Citing soaring rent, downtown staples look to take operations elsewhere

Craft Heads and Phog Lounge in Windsor, Ont. on June 11, 2024. (Travis Fortnum/CTV Windsor) Craft Heads and Phog Lounge in Windsor, Ont. on June 11, 2024. (Travis Fortnum/CTV Windsor)
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Two staples in Windsor’s downtown nightlife scene are looking outside the core — with Phog Lounge and Craft Heads Brewing Company renting space on Via Italia.

Phog owner Tom Lucier said, after 20 years operating the venue, soaring rent was to blame.

“I understand rents go up,” he told AM800’s The Dan MacDonald Show on Monday. “My rent went up like 13 per cent, but my friends at Craft Heads, their rent went up like 300 per cent.”

“It's untenable. That kind of rent increase is psychotic,” said Lucier.

It was ownership at Craft Heads, Lucier said, that let him know they were renting space in a newer plaza on Erie Street – next to Nizam Pastry.

When he looked into the location, he found the space right next door was available. That’s where Phog will set up.

Jason Barsotta, co-owner of Craft Heads, told CTV News their brewery has already relocated to the new spot, but the bar portion of the business is staying downtown for now.

“We did sign a two year lease with the landlords at the increased rate for just the taproom,” said Barsotta. “So we're trying to sort some things out right now.”

He said staff at the taproom are excited to keep serving folks at their usual University Avenue West and Pelissier Street spot.

For Phog, Lucier also said the lease at both spaces would overlap – he plans to operate both bars simultaneously for a period.

“I'm going to have basically two Phog Lounges for about five months,” he said. “And if I get a reasonable response from where I am now, I'll stay in the spot I'm in now and I'll run two of them. But that isn't what's going to happen.”

On Erie Street, the pair of nightlife pillars will be in good company – sharing a city block with WindsorEats.

Founder and Co-owner Adriano Ciotoli said he’s excited.

“For two and a half years we’ve been doing our own little thing with no one really around us, but to have these two businesses – who we’ve worked with in the past – coming in, the possibilities are endless,” he told CTV News.

Ciotoli said he expects the two businesses to open within the next few months.

“I’m someone who’s super stoked to move into this next process,” Lucier said. “What if this new incarnation of the business is 10 times better?”

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