Older McGill students and Milton-Parc residents have likely heard of Bar des Pins, a longtime student bar with a middling reputation and downable drinks. But those seeking out that tried-and-true seedy-licious vibe will be surprised to find a new establishment taking up residence in the small building on Parc and Pins, under a green sign that still reads "Bar des Pins."
This is now Bar Milton-Parc: a brand-new cooperative serving cheap drinks with a side of community organizing.
Pride flags and happy plants now adorn the space, which feels impossibly brighter than it used to. A shelf holds dozens of board games, there's a chess board and some comfy-looking couches, and next to the bar is a table covered in organizing materials, zines and pamphlets keeping patrons updated on the latest happenings in the surrounding communities.
Rachel Kalmanovich, one of the cool, laidback bartenders, was quick to tell me about the vision for the future of the space. Bar Milton-Parc isn't just going to be a bar — the long-term plan is to be able to serve food, as an extension of existing meal programs and to allow people under 18 to enter the space. (For now, kids can't enter, which is markedly different from the surrounding community's ideas for the establishment.)
A cozy seaitng area remained mostly empty, as regulars sat at the bar to chat with the bartenders.Willa Holt | MTL Blog
Kalmanovich got involved through a combination of personal and organizing connections, and they're now a part owner of the business thanks to the cooperative structure.
"I'm 22 years old, and I'm a co-owner of the business, basically. That's a really, really cool and crazy opportunity that I never could have imagined that I would have until I ended up here. And I feel really lucky," they said.
Customers are pretty lucky, too — during happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., mixed drinks cost $6. But drinks aren't all the bar hopes to serve.
Jeff Helberg, one of the project's longtime planners, told me the bar has recently received one of the many permits it needs to eventually serve food.
"We're still trying to get a solidarity meal program happening," Helberg said, "at least two days a week to start."
From there, the plan is to turn the establishment into a fully-functioning resto-bar, with kitchen space that community members could even use for their own projects and gatherings. "I couldn't really imagine living behind [the space] and having a food-based project and not being involved," Helberg said, echoing what many nearby co-op housing residents have said about the space in surveys and unofficial consultations.
But even if the community is still waiting on that food permit and to allow children into the space, those who work there are already excited about what's there, and what's to come.
"The possibilities are endless," Kalmanovich said, "I love this place so much."
The exterior of Bar Milton-Parc in the evening, with a view of the plants and pride flags in the window.
Willa Holt | MTL Blog
Where: 3714, ave du Parc
When: Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Why You Should Go: To learn more about the Milton-Parc area's collective organizing, grab a cheap drink or participate in queer karaoke (among other events)!