Eye of the Blind Tiger

by Derek Gagnon

Speakeasy.

A word synonymous with the prohibition era, Al Capone, and Sean Connery’s attempt to portray an Irish-American beat cop in The Untouchables; speakeasies commonly bring to mind an image of a dark setting where people go for a fun evening. Oh, and there’s probably a hidden door or secret knock to get in.

While there was no mention of a secret knock at Blind Tiger Coffee Co, there was definitely a hidden door. Blind Tiger opened in South Osborne in early November, featuring a café front open during the day that’s hiding a speakeasy bar and restaurant in the back that opens for evening business.

Located in the location of what used to be Bistro 7 ¼, you’d have a difficult time recognizing the place anymore after the transformation completed through the guidance and vision of co-owner Jack Moslehi. Jack had the walls stripped down to the brick, the windows boarded up and opened up the space to allow for communal seating in the restaurant portion, all hidden by the inconspicuous café up front.

“Speakeasies have been on trend for a while now, more so in big cities,” said Jack. “Winnipeg didn’t have a true speakeasy as an offering.”

The idea to transform the space came to Jack the moment he was first brought into the building.

“I just thought that was such a cool thing. Obviously, alcohol is no longer illegal, but that vibe and that experience is still super cool.”
Blind Tiger opened in early November, and is Jack’s first foray into the restaurant industry, with years of experience in the nightclub industry, owning numerous clubs and still holding a stake in 441 Main.

“I’ve been so taken and so blessed, the response has been incredible. The neighbourhood and the people have been so welcoming, with people dropping by during construction telling me how excited they are to see something in the space again.”

Learning from others
Jack has been able to use his connections from years in the hospitality industry to form a partnership to own Blind Tiger. Noel Bernier of FB Hospitality and Chris Musto of 441 Main both have shares of Blind Tiger, and their combined experience makes the process easier. Jack also reached out to Nils Vik of Parlour Coffee to help make the café side of the business successful as well.
“It’s been good, I think a lot of the people in the neighbourhood appreciate that we do have this coffee offering for them.”

Shifting priorities
There is obviously a big change between running a nightclub and a restaurant, but Jack and his staff have taken it all in stride.

“There are tons of learning curves and growing pains, but I think we’ve been handling it fairly well and the response has been pretty great.”

The decision to leave the nightclub scene came with some major changes in Jack’s personal life, with the biggest changes being getting married and having a child. His face lights up when talking about the woman he calls his best friend, and his 15-month-old son and all the joys that come with being a husband and father. Family has become his number one priority, and even as a self-described ‘serial entrepreneur’, Jack says money is not what drives him most in business.

“I’m very much motivated by smiles. I’m very much motivated by creating spaces and ambiences that put smiles on people’s faces. Being able to walk into the Blind Tiger and see people eating, drinking, having a good time and smiling is what drives me.”

Blind Tiger Coffee Co is located at 725 Osborne St. The coffee shop is open Monday through Saturday during the day, while the speakeasy is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5-2. For more info or to book a spot, check out blindtigerwinnipeg.ca

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