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Garrison Brewing opens Halifax taproom inspired by Oxford Theatre

Brian Titus, co-founder and president of Garrison Brewing, shows off an old Century movie projector once used at the Oxford Theatre during a sneak peek of the brewery's new taproom, the Oxford, in Halifax on Thursday. TIM KROCHAK - The Chronicle Herald
Brian Titus, co-founder and president of Garrison Brewing, shows off an old Century movie projector once used at the Oxford Theatre during a sneak peek of the brewery's new taproom, the Oxford, in Halifax on Thursday. TIM KROCHAK - The Chronicle Herald
HALIFAX, N.S. —

Garrison Brewing is ready to raise the curtain on a new initiative.

Halifax’s new taproom, the Oxford, premieres Friday on Quinpool Road near Oxford Street in a former hair salon, steps away from the entrance to the beloved single-screen movie theatre on the corner.

The visually striking space, like many a blockbuster, overshot its budget.

“We were hoping that it would come in under half a million; let’s say we’re getting close to doubling that,” Brian Titus, co-founder and president of Garrison, said during a sneak peek Thursday.

“There are so many structural issues; fundamental issues - nothing to do with paint colours and finishes.”

The site features a compact on-site brewery, funky seating area, a retail store for beer and merchandise, as well as a private upper-level space.

Touches of Tribute

The interior of Garrison Berwery's new taproom, the Oxford. - Tim Krochak
The interior of Garrison Berwery's new taproom, the Oxford. - Tim Krochak

Haligonians had been going to movies in the Oxford for 80 years, and the taproom has touches that pay tribute to the history of the building. Titus obtained the original projector from the theatre, and all the tables are hand-painted with movie quotes. A vintage Triumph motorcycle, said to be the bike of choice for old-time movie stars, is parked on one wall.

“This project started in the middle of December last year,” said Titus.

“Two weeks later, I’ve got a business plan drawn up and I’m starting to collect images of what I might want it to look like.”

Two weeks after that, he was sitting down to hammer out a 10-year lease with local developer Nanco Group, which purchased the property from the Cineplex theatre chain in 2017.

Titus said the new operation is a hospitality room and sampling space, not a restaurant. The idea is not to compete with longtime Garrison customers in the area, like the Athen restaurant. 

“To plunk right down in the middle of them would have been challenging to defend,” he said.

Instead, patrons with a hunger will be encouraged to bring in food from local businesses.

Diving into brewing

Diana Lewis, Garrison Brewing's marketing and events co-ordinator, pours a sampler for a guest during a sneak peek of the Oxford Taproom, formerly part of the old Oxford Theatre, in Halifax on Thursday. - Tim Krochak
Diana Lewis, Garrison Brewing's marketing and events co-ordinator, pours a sampler for a guest during a sneak peek of the Oxford Taproom, formerly part of the old Oxford Theatre, in Halifax on Thursday. - Tim Krochak

Having started in 1997 on Lady Hammond Road, Garrison has grown its craft beer business to include a prominent flagship operation at the Halifax Seaport on the waterfront.

“In ’97, I knew enough to be dangerous,” said Titus.

The self-described “big beer guy” leapt off an assured career track as a diving officer in the navy to get into the nascent craft sector. 

“You’ve gotta go with your gut. I guess if you’re lucky it works out.”

It took three years for the company to reach profitability. The addition of the taproom should add another six full-time jobs, bringing the company’s total to about 30.

“Garrison isn’t going to survive or die based on this place,” Titus said of the new operation.

“This is a bit of a legacy thing. I wanted to create a place that I would really want to go to, and that didn’t exist in Halifax.”

The west-end neighbourhood transition continues. East Peak Climbing gym is set to open soon next door to Garrison, and Titus said there may also be a separate café operation taking up more space in the old theatre property.

The Oxford Taproom’s doors officially open Friday at noon. Regular hours will be Sunday to Thursday from noon -10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to midnight.

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