With wings and pub fare, you're lucky if you land in this Penalty Box.
Located at 220 Bayview Drive, The Penalty Box has been in the location for nearly 11 years and before that was a popular pool hall. Always having served up pints of beer and wings for the games on TV for any night, the popularity of the establishment was waning. Considered by some to be a “watering-hole”, the clientele was inconsistent and not taking full advantage of an area that could really use a place to meet for friends and families.
Enter Nelson Sampson and George Gunness.
The two have been friends for 12 years and while Gunness had lived in Barrie up until recently, Sampson and his young family are almost settled into their home in the community. With a background in the car industry for the last 25 years, Sampson says that he obsessed with customer service and running a bar/restaurant is no different than anything else that involves dealing with people.
“It has always been customer-first with me,” said Sampson. “I respect people and enjoy when people are respected. Barrie has so many good blue-collared workers, when they return to your establishment with their hard-earned money it’s a great compliment.”
The Penalty Box was officially under new management on Mar. 14 with a three-day renovation period taking place to liven the place up. More space was created to accommodate groups, a big scoreboard was installed, updated pictures and memorabilia now adorns the walls with more of the sort to come.
“We want to create an Original Six area,” said Sampson. “Different table and chairs would represent an Original Six team so of your group comes in and want to sit in the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadians sections they can or even the Detroit Red Wings area; just something to make it a little bit more of a conversation piece.”
Old standards will still be on the menu, wings and pub fare which are always popular with the sports crowds, but there will be experimenting too when the new menu comes out this week. Deep fried ice cream is great treat for kids of any age and the adding of a chicken and waffles dish will certainly be a favourite. But Sampson is also not afraid to take a chance on items completely unheard of.
“Deep friend corn on the cob,” said Sampson. “It is delicious and who doesn’t like deep-fried items on a menu? We have to maintain that we are obviously a sports bar, but both George and I have young kids and we want a place where parents can bring their little ones and have a great time.”
While Gunness can be found at the location more often than not, Sampson is a pound-the-pavement type of guy. Busy making connections to further the friendships that Sampson wants to make in the community, the 44-year-old is proud to say that The Penalty Box will host a June 5 evening party for Barrie Pride week. There will also be new and specialty nights and days for anyone who is looking for something to do close by.
“We will be doing some Sunday karaoke nights and getting involved in the amazing comedy scene here in Barrie as well,” said Sampson. “We have dominoes on Sunday afternoon, we’ve had a Friday night DJ, we’ll be adding trivia pursuit with the NTN multimedia, I’m in the midst of looking for good ventriloquist show and of course a live band night. We’re really going to make The Penalty Box something for everybody.”
Staying true to the sports roots will be tail-gate parties in the parking lot when the NFL season starts up and the addition of a sports TV package where every game in league play can be watched any given day. The summer will also see The Penalty Box Pig Roast celebrations making the atmosphere seem exactly like Sampson wants it.
“I come from a big family as does my wife so family is important,” said Sampson. “I want our customers to come in here and feel like they have been welcome into our home and are being treated properly. George and I have a mission statement of sorts and that is, if you get really great service and good food, you’ll come back. If you get bad service and great food, you won't. Not only do we have great food already and on the way, but our staff are the best and we recognize that without these cooks and servers we are nothing; we want everyone to see how great we are now and plan to be.”
For more information on The Penalty Box check out their website.