HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: The oil biz - Stand up and fight! Originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 26, 2013

Last week, I approached a friend, a field manager for a small oil producer in rural Alberta with a few hundred wells. How about a Hicks on Biz story on the company, I suggested, a column that could tell the general public the real story about the industry that’s the backbone of Alberta’s economy. Not a sensationalized report about leaks or contamination or pollution, but a ground-level look at an industry that’s among the cleanest of its kind in the world. I could witness first-hand the process of going back to old wells, re-boring, drilling horizontally, and the fracking that has bent New Brunswick aboriginals all out of shape. I could report back to the general public on environmental improvements, on ever-improving technology, on the industry’s job creation and so on. Nope. The oil company’s head office didn’t want any publicity. No matter how sympathetic the journalist, they feared what might be written in the comments section of any on-line story - th ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Tavern 1903 offers great food at great prices. Originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. Oct. 23, 2013

Tavern 1903 at Alberta Hotel 9802 Jasper Ave. 780 424 0152 www.tavern1903.com   Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two (not including drinks or tip): Basic, $50, loaded, $80. Tavern 1903 is not a tavern. Tavern 1903 is a restaurant with a great bar. Tavern 1903 breathes history like the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald breathes history. Tavern 1903 is the best food & drink thing to happen at the east end of Jasper Avenue since the Hardware Grill. Which makes sense. Tavern 1903 is a second project for Hardware Grill owner/chef Larry Stewart and his wife Melinda. But whereas the Hardware Grill is the city’s top dog for formal (i.e. expensive) dining, Tavern 1903 is offering Hardware Grill quality in a casual setting, at Earl’s/Joey’s prices. Tavern 1903 is so named because half — to the right as you enter — is a replica of the tavern in the original Alberta Hotel. The other half — to the left &mda ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton mayoralty candidate Iveson will win by a mile: Originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 19, 2013

(Update on this column:  Two days after its publication, Don Iveson did win the mayoralty election in Edmonton, Alberta ...by a mile.) What business wants from municipal politicians is so simple. Create a business environment as good or better than other municipalities – physical, financial and regulatory. Be supportive, then get the heck out of the way. Talk to any Edmonton business owner with skin in the game, and you’ll hear much the same. Fix the potholes, roads and sidewalks; ensure top-notch core services; maintain law and order; enforce sensible regulations (i.e. environment, safety); help rather than hinder; keep taxes reasonable; create a city where employees want to live. Then get out of the way! The less any of us have to do with bureaucrats, the better! Business is most fearful of a city council or mayor so overly influenced by one interest group or ideology as to lose sight of the overall good. Mistrust between socialist mayor Jan Reimer (1989 to 1995) and commer ... Read the rest of entry »

Belgravia Hub comforting but elegant: Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun, Wed. Oct. 16, 2013

Belgravia Hub 7609 115 St. (one block west of the Belgravia LRT stop) 780 756 3344 www.belhub.com (evenings only) Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 Suns Dinner for two (not including drinks or tip): Basic, $40; loaded, $80. Lively, up-tempo, energetic dining in the downtown, 124th Street or Whyte Avenue restaurant precincts is all fine and dandy. But sometimes — often — you want a little break, a little quiet, a little peaceful dining far from the madding crowd. Which is why Belgravia Hub, one block west of the Belgravia LRT stop at the corner of 76 Avenue and 115 Street, and blocks south of the University of Alberta, will be with us for a very long time. It’s a small, comforting yet elegant restaurant perfectly in tune with its neighbourly surroundings, framed with tall elms, side by side with what you’d think would be the competition of the Gracious Goods Café. The surrounding community — all residential &mdas ... Read the rest of entry »

The downtown hospitality explosion: Hicks on Biz originally published Edmonton Sun Oct. 12, 2013

Blair Lebsack had scoured the downtown, looking for space to house his new RGE RD restaurant. RGE RD is now open, just off 124 Street’s restaurant row. But downtown leases, Blair says, “just about doubled” during his 18-month location search. Restaurants, pubs and clubs are an accurate, if anecdotal, indication of the downtown renaissance. As Jim Taylor of the Downtown Business Association puts it: “Up until now it’s been ‘ready, set, wait a minute.’ Now we’re truly into the ‘ready, set, go’ stage.” The new arena, to open early in the 2016-17 NHL season, is having an impact. The reality, suggests Colliers International realtor Perry Gereluk, is bigger than the arena. “Edmonton is growing, we have jobs, we have a vibrant economy.” As it is, new storefront leases in prime downtown locations are closing in on Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver rental rates. “There’s not much street space left,” says Tayl ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: You can count on Koutouki - originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 9, 2013

Koutouki on 124th Street 10719-124 St. www.koutouki.ca 780 452 5383 Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): Mezethes style, $50; full meal deal, $90 Koutouki on 124 Street is more-or-less Edmonton’s original Koutouki Taverna. Koutouki patriarch Yianni Psalios had opened, sold or closed a bunch of other Greek restaurants before settling on the name and a location that’s now owned and operated by his daughter and son-in-law Dina and Chris St. Denis. The very first Koutouki was actually across the street, a tiny restaurant sandwiched in beside the Roxy Theatre. Since the original, six Koutoukis have come and gone. “You know how it goes,” Yianni once said, “When the economy is growing, I open restaurants. When the economy shrinks, I close.” While the ever-restless Yianni opens and closes (his latest, Yianni’s Backyard at 5524 Calgary Trail, has just opened) Dina and Ch ... Read the rest of entry »

Graham Hicks review of two Citadel Theatre shows - The Daisy Theatre and Long Day's Journey Into Night

Graham Hicks review of two Citadel Theatre productions: Citadel Theatre, 9828 101A Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - 780 425 1820 Long Day's Journey Into Night in the Shoctor Theatre to Oct. 13, 2013 The Daisy Theatre with Ronnie Burkett in The Club (Rice Stage) to Nov. 17, 2013 Ticket information Can there be any more polar opposites in theatre than the two shows marking the start of the Citadel Theatre's 2013-14 season? And if any two shows could demonstrate why the Citadel Theatre continues to be a beacon of cultural hope in a vulgar, de-sensitized pop culture world (Miley Cyrus, Snooki, say no more) it would be Eugene O'Neill's sombre and sober (in tone at least) Long Day's Journey Into Night, on the Shoctor stage until Oct. 13, and Ronnie Burkett's cheeky, hilarious, poignant, satirical, spur-of-the-moment marionette (puppets on strings) Daisy Theatre, playing cabaret-style in The Club (Rice Theatre). Long Day's Journey is homage to what's very much now old-style, "classical ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Roads, Rails and Runways: Originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 5, 2013

The “big picture” is often difficult to grasp. But Northern Alberta’s prosperity depends on the right decisions now to fully realize our future. A conference in Edmonton last week brought together Canadian and global players in the freight transport business, be it airlines, trucking companies, railways, freight-forwarding companies, governments … anybody and everybody with a stake in what’s called the “logistics” sector. The “Roads Rails & Runways” conference may have flown under the radar, but the event was a practical look at industrial/economic growth in Northern Alberta, what’s happening now, how to handle future growth from a logistical perspective in a thoughtful, pre-planned way. For the out-of-towners, there was a whole pile of discovery. It may be obvious to us that Northern Alberta is a treasure trove of natural resources, technological know-how and political stability, but those freight-movers based in Toronto, New York, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: State and Main: Originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 2, 2013

State & Main Kitchen|Bar Southgate Shopping Centre (southwest corner) 5015 111 St. 587 524 3251 http://www.stateandmain.ca/edmonton Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns Dinner for two (not including drinks or tip): Basic, $25; Loaded, $60. Just like Earl’s spawned Joey Tomatoes, Original Joe’s has spawned a new restaurant chain, State & Main. Edmonton’s first State & Main recently opened on the south-west corner of Southgate Shopping Centre with no direct access to the mall itself. A State & Main has been open in Spruce Grove since mid-summer. The corporate strategy is obvious. Calgary headquartered, Original Joe’s has been very successful — some seven locations in Edmonton alone — as a bar with good food. This column gave the 109th Street Original Joe’s a four out of five Suns rating back in February. State & Main has the same menu as Original Joe’s, transferred to an all-ages ... Read the rest of entry »