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Rest in Peace Albion

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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As everyone know, the only thing that doesn't change is the fact that things always change. When I came to Guelph, I gravitated towards the Albion. It used to be that we folks that frequented the Albion were the outsiders, with everyone else going to the Trash (now vinyl), the Jazz, the eBar, Van Gogh's, the Palace, Trappers etc. The Albion was a little slice of "out of the way" in downtown Guelph, especially for us first-floor dwellers. On the first floor of the Albion you could sit and drink, round after round and discuss anything. The first floor of the Albion was more like a 17th century salon for inspired discussion. It's a sad fact, to me at least, that the Albion is not what it used to be.

The Albion was purchased in 2005 and since then renovations have been ongoing. Now, at first things seemed to be fine. In the old Albion the tables and chairs were almost all broken, and broken in different ways. So, fixing things up, a fresh coat of paint, new doors, it all seemed ok. However, after a long lapse in Albion attendance, two friends and I went because we wanted a quiet place to get a drink and talk... Well, the Albion is no longer that place. The first floor is occupied by obtuse furniture: arm chairs, sofas, low tables, and art nouveau pseudo-vintage junk. It's virtually impossible to accommodate a group larger than five or six. It can be done, but not nearly the same way.

The new format seems to have changed the Albion from a pub to a lounge. The word "pub" is short for public house. In earlier times, the pub was the focal point of a town or village. As such, this is where people would discuss matters of the day and act like the 17th century French salons with the addition of beer and spirits. The new Albion serves as a lounge, a place where people can come and relax, drink and not concern themselves with important matters.

Along with this change to a lounge atmosphere has come other changes. The place is more formal now. A year ago, you could go up to the kitchen and ask the cooks about stuff on the menu. Now you're not allowed to go up to the kitchen, you can only get food through the wait staff. The food, too, has changed. While the fanciest thing on the menu used to be a burrito or a sandwich. When I went in, there was a little chalkboard with the day's specials: lemon-herb salmon and potato leek soup. The new target of clientèle is a decidedly richer disinterested crowd. This change follows a trend that can be seen in North American culture in general, that it's better t have good times than to think about things. Many brilliant ideas came out of discussion at the old Albion, the new set up does not lend to brilliance, only relaxation and sedation.

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  1. Posted by: Rook on Apr 1, 2008 @ 12:29am

    I would have to agree with you. I recently visited the Albion, not knowing about any of the renovations, and walked in with my punky grunge street clothing, expecting the standard relaxed atmosphere. As I walked in, I immediately felt out of place (at the Albion? No way!) and was greeted by a lady waiter who asked me if I was alone or joining anyone at a table. Thankfully, I had been invited down to the Albion by some friends and while still feeling awkward, walked into the main room, took a gander at all of the jazzed up people wearing formal dance club wear seated at their exclusive little tables, and thankfully found my friends... who I clearly stood out from.
    I do like the decor and the new style, but I would like it to be somewhere else - not the Albion, where I could easily dispense with the pleasantries, facade et al. and relax with a pint, a few friends, and not clash with the furniture.

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