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Nixons helping make Kelowna’s downtown a 'remarkable standout area in all of Canada'

BNA was the start of the growing network of downtown Kelowna pubs and eateries owned by Kyle and Carolyn Nixon.
BNA was the start of the growing network of downtown Kelowna pubs and eateries owned by Kyle and Carolyn Nixon.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/BNA Brewing Co.

Kyle Nixon may come from one of the oldest and most respected hospitality families in Kelowna but he won’t take credit for the dramatic transformation of the city’s downtown food and beverage vibe.

His father, Jim, owned the Hotel Eldorado for 25 years until 2014 and Kyle managed it for a decade.

After it sold, it opened the door for Kyle and his wife Carolyn to move into the brewery business at a time and place where it was unheard of – a former tobacco warehouse in an old industrial area of downtown next to Prospera Place.

That was long before that area of the city exploded into the brewery/highrise neighbourhood it is today.

“I like to think we had a little something to do with making that area,” Kyle Nixon told “The Train Station (pub) and Central (kitchen) were there before us. Everything together kind of gave a little bit more momentum to that end of town. I knew it was coming, regardless. I think it happened a little sooner than maybe was planned.”

The Nixons opened BNA Brewing Co. in June 2015 in the old BNA Tobacco building that had been used for storage for the previous decade. They expanded into the former Flashbacks nightclub with a six-lane bowling alley the following year.

Three years later, in 2019, the Nixons transformed the former Sturgeon Hall, a few blocks down Ellis Street, into Skinny Duke’s Glorious Emporium.

“We just loved the (Sturgeon Hall) space,” Nixon said. “It just feels cozy in there. We did our take on a concept that we wanted to do and we have a huge passion for food and beverage and hospitality. We just wanted to make a cool space that was warm and comfortable, with great food and drinks.”

Now they’re about to replace the iconic Doc Willoughby’s Pub on nearby Bernard Avenue with Bernie’s Supper Club and Cinema in an effort to recreate the experience of going to the movies downtown, but with beer, wine and food to go with it.

While all that activity may look like an empire in the making, Nixon doesn’t see it that way.

“We’re not actively going out there and knocking on doors,” he said. “On both Bernie’s and Skinny Dukes, they came to us and approached us. We feel we grow as our team grows so if our team feels we’re ready to take on a new project, and feel we have enough manpower and people and energy to take on a new project, we’ll do it.”

Each of the Nixon’s three establishments are markedly different, ranging from the brewery/bowling alley at BNA to the 1970s retro feel of Skinny Dukes to the boutique cinema vibe of Bernie’s.

READ MORE: Skinny Duke's Glorious Emporium in Kelowna is all right, all right, all right

“For us to open something new, we feel like we would like to open up something that’s a little different and can add to the diversity downtown,” Nixon said.

While there’s a lot happening between Harvey Avenue – with three highrises going in along Leon Avenue – to the brewery district north of Clement Avenue, there’s lots more to come. And it’s not the Nixons who are leading that charge.

“There’s a lot of cool things happening downtown,” Nixon said. “There’s a lot of people pushing in different directions. That’s cultivating a cool arts... community downtown. We just want to be some part of that that’s enhancing the experience for people living downtown, or people visiting downtown or people looking for a night out downtown where we’re just one piece of a lot of people trying to make downtown a really, really special place in Canada. We’re proud to be part of that.”

Still to come downtown is a UBCO highrise campus and housing tower with two neighbouring highrises along with numerous other towers currently under construction or proposed.

The latest proposal is a three-tower hotel/commercial/housing project replacing 16 homes along Coronation Avenue between St. Paul and Richter streets.

READ MORE: Three more highrises planned for downtown Kelowna

“I think the city had a vision for downtown and they’ve been awesome to work with,” Nixon said. “If you look around, there’s a lot of different people with a lot of different ideas right now that’s really creating a unique downtown core. In five to 10 years, I think it’s going to be a really remarkable standout area in all of Canada.”

For his small part, he wants to contribute to a more European feel where it’s also family friendly, like BNA.

“What we wanted to do was make a place comfortable,” Nixon said. “If you had a young kid, you could come in and have a nice craft beer and great meal but listen to more contemporary music or have a space that’s a little bit more interesting than having a bull-pit in it. It is hard when you go to downtown Vancouver and you have a few kids, and you want to go have a cool dinner experience. A lot of places don’t make you comfortable.”

That’s not what he sees for his hometown of downtown Kelowna.

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