Nestled in the heart of downtown Victoria, just south of Government at Yates, is Leopold’s Tavern—one of Victoria’s quirkiest and friendliest bars. Here, it’s all about the people.
Leopold’s, or ‘Leo’s’ for short, is celebrating its second birthday in Victoria, one of 19 Canadian locations to organically sprout from the 2013 original in Regina.
General manager AJ Schepers said, “We opened two years ago as COVID-19 babies; small and intimate. But we’ve been able to sustain business, thanks to hiring great local people and killing our customers with kindness. I think it’s something special Leo’s has. The way we hear and listen to everyone and make them all feel welcome.”
Patrons also love the unique decor, featuring a mesmerizing array of memorabilia coating the walls; posters, T-shirts, license plates, place mats—and you name it.
When it comes to drinks, beer and liquor flow freely from the menu, and Leo’s cocktails—I sampled the tasty spicy mango margarita—will leave you craving more.
Recently launched, in a partnership with neighbouring Phillips Brewery, there is the Leosaurus Strawberry Rhubarb Dinosaur—a sour beer which refreshes and satisfies in equal measure. I also enjoyed a pint of Whistle Buoy’s blackcurrant ale.
Food plays a big part in the Leopold’s experience, including fan favourites like the delicious cheeseburger poutine.
“We do pub food really well and take pride in it,” enthused Schepers. “We hire great people in the back of house and go that extra yard to ensure people are getting bang for their buck.”
He added: “Along with the poutine, we have specials nights for wings and tacos, standout sandwiches and the beef brisket with beef dip, my personal menu favourite. We also offer plant-based and gluten-free options, which are very popular.”
Schepers, who joined Leopold’s as a bartender at their original Regina location in 2014, jumped at the chance to move out west three years ago and lay the foundations for Victoria’s branch.
Schepers feels Leo’s has enriched Victoria’s bar culture through its accessibility.
“It’s an accessible, safe and intimate space. We know how to talk to people and guide them in the right way. Accessibility allows people to feel themselves and not be intimidated. That’s our little niche.
“We’re in the people business. We’re seeing more tourists and cruise ship customers and we have a huge number of regulars. For the most part, we can walk through and name 75 per cent of the room. And word-of-mouth is spreading, which is the best marketing you can have.”
What makes a great bartender?
Personality, sense of urgency, understanding of the room and an overall host energy. Safety is always a priority. It is not only the bartender’s, but all of our staff’s responsibility to ensure people are safe, and feeling heard. The people make us special; both our staff and our customers.
What’s your signature drink or cocktail? Our drinks menu is growing and we’re always looking to enhance the guest experience. Fall/winter: Guinness and Jameson. Spring/summer: Leo’s Lager, Leo’s Cherry Fizz or, literally, anything from any of the amazing local breweries such as Whistle Buoy, Ile Sauvage, Phillips or Driftwood. Our cocktail list is a bit tongue-in-cheek, with easy builds, simple ingredients. One drink to try? It would have to be one of our several margaritas on our Taco & Tequila Tuesday.
What makes Happy Hour at Leopold’s special? The energy! Our spaces are designed to be smaller, making them more intimate. Music and lighting play a huge role. We have the perfect space equally for people who want to hide away in the corner of the room, at the bar, socialize in their group or meet someone new. What brings people back is the connection they feel for the room and the people they are sharing it with. Happy Hour prices and the quality of product we serve seal the deal.
What is the optimal Leopold’s customer experience? Bar Seat 1, B1 to our staff and regulars, which allows you to literally greet all that walk in. A cold pint, shaft, great music and watching the room grow around you. It’s an electrifying space and very hard not to get caught up in the energy that inevitably takes over. We feel that being seen and heard is so vital to the experience. All are welcome and celebrated.