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The Palms opens new upscale sports bar in Victoria

Owner Rob Ekstrom says bar helps restaurant utilize space, and fills gap in Victoria’s sports bar scene

There’s a new upscale sports bar in town.

On Wednesday, May 22, The Palms Restaurant and Lounge, located on Douglas Street at the Hotel Rialto, announced on Facebook that The Palms “Game Seven” Sports Bar is now open, just in time for the Stanley Cup finals, NBA finals, and the upcoming Olympics.

While owner Rob Ekstrom said it’s an early soft opening and they still want to get their menu and operations in order before their hard launch, he said the doors are now open.

“Certainly, everybody is welcome,” Ekstrom said.

Those familiar with the Palms restaurant will know it as a long room with a horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle. A wall now exists on the Douglas Street side of that bar, separating the room into the old dining room from the wall to the Douglas Street windows, and the new sports bar.

The atmosphere is casual yet sophisticated, with large paintings, modern furniture and the elegant details of the heritage building it shares with Hotel Rialto.

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Ekstrom wanted to distinguish that The Palms is not part of the hotel’s operations, as many people think, but he thought having a sports bar in the space would cater well to the hotel guests.

“We are an independent business, but I love being in the Hotel Rialto. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel. I love the ownership and the management, and we try to be good partners with them.”

A frequent traveller himself, Ekstrom thought it would be beneficial for hotel guests to have a place where they could have a bite to eat, and watch the game.

The other reason for opening a sports bar was to better utilize the space, creating a more intimate dining room as the restaurant prior was “gigantic” and “wasn’t always full.”

“It’s a better dining experience for my guests,” said Ekstrom. “So now I’m giving people another reason to come to The Palms. We’ve got excellent cocktails, we’ve got a wonderful food program. Now guests can have an upscale pub experience.”

Ekstrom found the Victoria bar scene had limited options for watching sports and now aims to create his own niche in the scene, which has been supported by feedback from his regular guests and friends.

“I’m old school. I remember some of the old beer parlours and stuff like that that were early sports bars. None of them exist anymore. You’ve got some restaurants, and certainly, the Sticky Wicket has a games room where they show sports events and stuff like that. Truly, I don’t really want to compete with those guys. I think they’re looking to serve a different demographic.”

As per the name “Game Seven”?

“I am a real, real sports fan, but I don’t really tie my allegiance to a lot of teams … But what I absolutely love is potential sports history. And every time there’s a game 7, there’s potential for something to happen in that event that could be sports history. So I have a real hard time not paying attention to Game 7 or their equivalent. So I thought that would just be a real fun name.”

Once the new menu gets executed, guests will be able to enjoy rotating sports bar features of classic pub fare with an elevated twist, made by executive chef John Waller. Items will include crispy chicken sandwiches, nachos, ribs and burger options, alongside the restaurant’s regular full menu.

The sports bar has a new draft beer selection with taps to be rotated out quarterly. Currently from Vancouver Island Brewing Company, the bar has West Coast IPA, Mystic Haze Pale Ale, Beach Shack Guava Blonde Ale and Dominion Dark Lager. From Small Gods Brewing Company, it has Neverending Pilsner, Rascal King Hazy IPA, Elbow Room Peach Tea Gose and Blue Runaways Elderberry Pink Grapefruit Farmhouse Ale.

“I hope it’s going to become an important little meeting place for people that like to participate in watching sports,” Ekstrom said.