It’s a “premium dive” that’s called El Furniture Warehouse.

Confused yet?

Despite the quirky branding, the chain opening downtown London’s newest night spot and eatery has a record of success in big markets such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto that they expect to duplicate in London with the big student-heavy bar crowd on Richmond Row.

El Furniture Warehouse opened its doors for the first time on Monday evening at 645 Richmond St.

Although its billed as a “dive bar,” it manages to look both chic and scruffy at the same time with the stone tiles and wood trim, offset by kitschy art and posters, a rusty-looking tin ceiling and a pillar lined with beer caps.

Sean Young is one of five old friends who founded the chain in Vancouver back in 2001.

“We’ve never been trendy guys. We liked the normal divey spots and other people like them too, so we knew the demand was there,” he said.

The chain has since expanded to 15 locations in major urban markets.

London is one of the smallest markets for the chain, but Young said they have done their homework.

He said London is Ontario’s third-largest market for alcohol sales after Toronto and Ottawa and has a long tradition of beloved watering holes.

“We invest a lot of money in a location and we do our due diligence . . . People talked very fondly of London and they come back often,” he said.

After months of reconstruction, the old building is almost unrecognizable from the one that housed the Mongolian Grill for 22 years.

Despite the name, it never was a furniture warehouse. Young said it’s a made-up identification applied to one of the first locations “that had a ring to it.”

The second storey is still under reconstruction, but the establishment will eventually hold about 300 patrons, including on a new raised patio fronting John Street.

Despite the Richmond Row location, Young said they are aiming at a mixed crowd.

“You can walk into our other locations and see guys in suits at the bar, families, students and skateboarders. We cater to everybody,” he said.

One big draw will be the food, which includes the usual roadhouse items such as burgers, tacos, salad and chicken wings.

There are no prices on the menu because everything is $4.95.

The low-priced menu was adopted by the chain back in 2009.

Young admits that price structure is under review because of Ontario’s plan to hike the minimum wage to $15, but for now, that’s the deal — $4.95.

If you feel guilty about that price, there’s an opportunity to donate a meal for someone in a homeless shelter in London.

The general manager for El Furniture Warehouse is David Inglis, who will supervise about 100 staff.

Inglis is a London native and restaurant veteran who has worked at Michael’s on the Thames, the Sweet Onion and various establishments run by the Agathos family.

A grand opening for El Furniture Warehouse will be held in a couple of months once the second floor renovations are complete.

Restaurants: El Furniture Warehouse, a chain of fake rundown bars, comes to London
By Hank Daniszewski, September 11, 2017

London Free Press link