The Pulse: Dec. 12, 2023

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  • -6°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 2. Wind chill minus 10 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers (12-12-1) play the Chicago Blackhawks (9-17-1) at Rogers Place. (details)

A vibrant restaurant interior shows a large amount of Christmas decorations, tables, chairs, a bar, and a sign reading "Dolly's."

Dolly's and Wilfred's try pop-ups for holiday boost

By Colin Gallant

The holiday season is critical for restaurant revenue because the industry slows to a crawl in January. Two Edmonton restaurants are trying to make the most of these crucial weeks with different approaches to the now storied holiday pop-up.

Wilfred's is hosting the licensed, tiki-themed Sippin' Santa event from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31. Meanwhile, Dolly's Cocktail Bar is hosting its own creation, the Holly Dolly Xmas Pop Up, from Nov. 23 to Jan 7.

What the owners of the two businesses share, aside from the holly-jolly attitude, is a belief that the expense to create or license a holiday-themed pop-up is worth it for the potential return.

"I've always really liked the Sippin' Santa concept," Marcus Purtzki, owner of Wilfred's and the Made by Marcus empire told Taproot. "The extravagant, cheeky, kind of holiday festival, I think is really cool. Some of the backstory of it is really cool. It's done by Jeff 'Beachbum' Berry, who's known to be a tiki historian."

The experience at Dolly's is more of a Technicolor take on Christmas decor, done in a similar aesthetic to what its clientele has come to expect from the highly Instagrammable cocktail bar.

Kyla Kazeil, a co-owner of The Common group of restaurants, which includes Dolly's, and the proprietor of The Bamboo Ballroom, told Taproot that because the latter business has wholesale access to design goods, the Dolly's team was able to create its pop-up in-house at an affordable price. "We conceptualize and design everything ourselves," she said.

Kazeil estimated the cost of her pop-up at less than $3,500. Meanwhile, Purtzki said his $9,000 investment in licensing Sippin' Santa also presented cost savings. The licence includes exclusive access to offer the Sippin' Santa brand in a city, a brand manual, marketing materials, recipes, and batching instructions. Restaurants make money through drink sales and hocking the brand's iconic glassware. Glassware isn't included in the licensing price, but Purtzki said it's still a good deal.

"You don't have to spend the money to get a designer to try to copy (Sippin' Santa)," he said. "It probably costs you more money, on all the little bits and bobs, for you to copy it, rather than just paying the $9,000 licensing fee."

Sippin' Santa is a pop-up experience offered by Cocktail Kingdom (an American barware distributor), which also operates the very viral Miracle. Both pop-ups began in New York City in the mid-2010s but have since gone international, this year operating 12 Miracles and four Sippin' Santas in Canada alone. Fortune covered the significant business the experiences drummed up for bars during the pandemic.

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Headlines: Dec. 12, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

A transit station in New York City has a wall-to-wall barrier with turnstile entrances on one side, which are monitored by an employee in a reflective vest.

Council may turn to turnstiles for transit safety

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

This week, Coun. Tim Cartmell is set to introduce a motion at council to direct the city to pilot turnstiles at two locations on Edmonton's LRT system as a potential way to address violent crime at stations.

Cartmell's motion follows separate attacks on a 55-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man, both at Coliseum Station (though the second was outside the actual station). Edmonton Police say more than 500 cases of violence at transit and LRT stations have been reported this year.

Taproot Edmonton's city hall watchers brought context to Cartmell's motion on Episode 245 of Speaking Municipally.

"A little over a month ago, Oct. 25, a report went to city council talking about the improved safety of transit, and how many fewer instances of violent crime there have been on transit," said Speaking Municipally co-host Mack Male. "(A) 36% decrease (in non-violent crime) from August to September — violent incidents reported fell 47%. The number of incidents fell quite significantly, even though throughout that same time period, the number of riders increased. So, just a month later, and now we're hearing about how unsafe everything is again, even though at the end of October, we heard things were improving."

If council supports Cartmell's motion, a pilot project to install turnstiles in two stations will likely go forward. With highly permeable transit environs, like the street-level Valley Line LRT, co-host Troy Pavlek questioned the effectiveness of the proposed trial.

"If you can get around a turnstile by getting on the train and just getting off the train past the turnstile and other stuff, I can't imagine what this would hope to accomplish," Pavlek said. "Turnstiles as a sort of perception of safety metric is sort of an all-or-nothing thing. You need them everywhere to reap the benefits of them at all, if there's going to be any, and as we've seen from the study in Calgary that they did, there are unlikely to actually be any benefits for an incredibly substantial cost."

Male expressed concern Cartmell's motion doesn't appear to follow council's usual process for starting a large project.

"To be fair to Coun. Cartmell, we haven't seen what his actual motion text will look like," Male said. "But from what he's written and said so far, it does not seem like he's going to ask for a report with some options and funding possibilities and, you know, potential benefits and challenges of installing turnstiles. It's just a motion to install fare gates at two stations as a pilot project. He's sort of jumping over the thing that would usually happen at City Council before a project of this kind got underway, which again, makes me question exactly what his motivation is with this motion."

Hear more LRT updates, learn about the city's no-snow-November savings, and get a briefing on recent police violence in the Dec. 8 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Photo: A motion from Coun. Tim Cartmell will propose a pilot program to test the effectiveness of turnstiles such as these pictured in New York City on lowering violent crime at Edmonton's LRT stations. (Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)