Power Up Bar is Canada’s longest running console lounge facing dire conditions
due to Covid-19. It has become a staple in the community, a safe place where
you’ll always leave happier than coming in.
Christopher Venutolo had a dream of bringing people together with the nostalgia of yesteryear paired with an ambitious menu and cocktail program. Challenging
the current perception of what a game bar was. In 2016 they told him it would
never be successful, that he’d make it maybe 6 months at best. So many people
doubted the concept would ever catch on.
I had the great privilege of being a part of the opening team working alongside
Chris. Having a first hand account of seeing how much people loved the
environment, made new friends, but more importantly seeing how people grew
into better versions of themselves. In a city like Toronto where everyone’s always busy, stressed, lonely how special this place has become to be a space for
escapism as well as community. Over the years we worked tirelessly to build an
In just 4 short years we were making it happen! Becoming the choice weekend
spot for Gamers and Non-Gamers alike. In the midst of never ending
construction, and having little to no presence from the street, Power Up became a hidden gem. Business was good, we had grown an amazing community both
locally and internationally! Turning into not only the local’s favourite place but
also people came from far and wide to have the Power Up experience.
We hosted everything from birthday parties, convention after parties, corporate events, game launches, wedding receptions and everything in between. Even
people that came in accidentally, had a memorable time.
Then Covid-19 hit, the first lockdown was difficult, not getting to spend time with our community and make amazing memories along the way, but we were still
working within our means. We started offering take out and signing up for all the apps just to always appear at the bottom of search results. Pop -Ups were helpful but not sustainable.
Finally at the end of July we were so very excited to get back to work, feeling
optimistic about the CafeTO program that would allow us some much desired
patio space. Unfortunately a larger business commandeered the space and the
city was not helpful in setting this right. Nonetheless we made all necessary
updates to make sure the space would be a safe place for people to dine.
It wasn't long till we were in lockdown again. In December we had a large part of
our ceiling collapse due to an upstairs neighbour being negligent, and repairs have been slow going with restrictions. The insurance has also gone up by 80%
specifically because its a restaurant. With the bills piling up and not being to
operate, it’s not looking good for this one of a kind place. Running through
reserves and not getting assistance from programs promising to help small
businesses. I am hoping the community we’ve built can take care of Power Up!
Chris has been shouldering this on his own, and he’s been there for so many
people over the years.
All funds raised will be used to cover ongoing expenses which have been difficult
to pay being closed for 8 total months. The funds will be used to help the bar
through the uncertain times ahead.
Power Up Bar is essentially the combination of a person’s dream to make people
happy and the immeasurable hard work it takes to make those dreams a reality.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read Power Up’s
story. Any donations will help Chris remember that he’s not alone in all of this, the bar is a special place to so many people. Here’s to keeping Toronto’s small and
special businesses open after all this.
Some kind words from people in the community!
“Power Up is the ultimate hub for gamers and non-gamers alike. I have never
found another place in this city with such a welcoming vibe and strong sense of
community, no matter who you are or how often you come. I have made so many memories and friends from my time at Power Up, it is truly an irreplaceable spot
in this city. I have much love for these wonderful people who need some very solid community support right now” -Chandra A.
“Anybody remember the sitcom "Cheers" with the catchy theme song that goes
like "Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name..."? Well
Power Up was that for me. So many memories in the past five years, so many
wonderful people I've met there and some are today what I'm proud and grateful to say are my bestest friends. No matter where we were on a weekend night, we would always want to end our night at Power Up. Nothing to do on a weekday and feeling mellow? Power Up always had the antidote. Every special event was
always one to remember. From the chicken wings to Jager Bombs to Negronis or
just simply a fresh craft beer, they are items I would crave everyday in these
trying times. I've missed it a lot, all of it, more than words can say. And it would
mean the Universe to me that when the lockdown is over, once again share more of these beautiful memories with the most wonderful people in my life.” - Ron Y
“As a newcomer to Toronto and a big nerd, Power Up was the place that made me feel at home when nothing else did. The community is amazing, and nothing has
been better after a long day, month, or year than a good pint, awesome video
games, and better company— Power Up has been and continues to be one of the best communities Toronto has to offer!” - Abby A
“It’s my home away from home. Made some of my closest friends here and is the
place of some of my best memories. No matter who you are, Powerup made you
feel welcome. Honestly my favourite place in the City. -Peter H
“Power Up has always made me feel welcomed and part of the community. I've made so many amazing friends and fond memories there. The food is insanely good,
the drinks are deliciously nerdy and I can’t wait to return and play some rad videos games with everyone!” -Claudio P
"Power Up has been such an important part of my life for the last few years. The staff are some of my dear friends, the food is awesome, and the drinks are creative and delicious. This bar means so much to me in to many ways to count." -Mikki V