October 24th, 2020

Popular downtown venue Average Joe’s forced to close


By Woodard, Dale on July 4, 2020.

The neon lights on the sign at Average Joe's have gone dim as the sports bar has permanently closed its doors. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

sports@lethbridgeherald.com

A popular Lethbridge sports bar and music venue has closed its doors.

After riding out the COVID-19 pandemic the best they could over the past three months, Average Joe’s Sports Bar has shut down.

The sports bar, located in downtown Lethbridge, officially shut down June 24 after closing up shop in March right before the Alberta-wide COVID-19 shutdown was enforced.

After taking over ownership of Average Joe’s earlier this year and a little over a month before the pandemic hit, Lonny Schmidt had no choice but to pull the plug last week.

“I bought the business on Feb. 1 and six weeks later we had to close,” said Schmidt. “We closed before they made it mandatory. Then a day or two later they made it mandatory and everybody closed. So we made the right decision. At first I thought it would be a couple of weeks and then I thought maybe another month. So we kind of hung on and it has gotten to the point now, they have lifted some of the restrictions, but our capacity is 525 people. With social distancing we probably get about 200 people in here. But we can’t have bands, we can’t have duelling pianos, we can’t have karaoke, no sports and the students aren’t coming back in the fall. So we pulled the pin. Last Wednesday was the day we made a decision.

“I lose money every day I’m in here because we are closed. We have zero revenue and if we open I will lose more money because it doesn’t pay the bills. You can’t have anything at all. And there are other businesses that have already closed down. So basically it’s due to COVID.”

Average Joe’s has been a downtown fixture and popular spot for fans of both sports and live entertainment since 2000, eventually moving to its 10,000-square-foot venue on 4 Avenue and 6 Street South.

The building has had several tennants over the years including Loblaws, The Place nightclub and The Cadillac restaurant and bar.

A retired general contractor who spends his winters in Arizona with his wife, Schmidt took over Average Joe’s earlier this year.

“We have our home there and our home here and we try to make the best of it. She was looking forward to this adventure,” said Schmidt, who originally hails from Maple Creek, Sask.

Schmidt has past local business ties, having brought the Blarney Stone and Rides to Lethbridge.

In February, Average Joe’s beckoned and Schmidt returned to southern Alberta and the winter weather he escapes when in Arizona.

“The day I came here it was -38,” he said. “I’ve had a couple other bars and restaurants in town and I thought it would be fun to try it again. I think I’ve got a really good name.”

But six weeks in, the pandemic flared up, shuttering many local businesses, though Schmidt tried to stay active during that time.

“We’ve been closed for over three months with hopes of salvaging it,” he said. “I wanted to renovate here and at first I thought it would be a good time to renovate because we were closed due to COVID. Then it kept dragging on and on and I saw we had no income and the chances of it happening soon (opening) are slim.”

News of the sports and music hot spot’s shutting down has generated plenty of online comments from bands and customers alike lamenting the turn of events at Average Joe’s.

“We are really sorry we can’t stay here in this facility,” said Schmidt. “It has worked so well for sports and it has worked so well for bands and karaoke and everything we do. There have been hundreds of people who have reached out and said they are sorry and they wish we could still be here. But I may be in the market for something else if it comes along.”

Even if that does happen, Schmidt said it’s difficult to put a timeline on it.

“It’s still too early to talk about. It may happen in two months it may happen in two years. I couldn’t say for sure.”

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