The founding principles behind The Radiant are inclusivity, beauty, indulgence, and arts & culture. At first blush, this might make The Radiant seem slightly at odds with its Banff Avenue locale. As a food and beverage establishment, its focus is quality and a relaxed, dreamy experience for patrons. As a performance venue, its stage is offered up as a receptive and welcome space for artists to ply their craft. Hight rent and high costs make Banff Avenue real estate destined for high volume, quick turn over restaurants. A performance venue and cocktail bar eschews speed and volume for intimacy and timelessness. And yet, the ownership team believes that there is room in the fabric of Banff town for such a space. They believe that Bow Valley locals and mountain lovers alike deserve a space to claim as their own, wearing it like a sport coat while traipsing across a mountain meadow.
The room itself was designed by The Radiant founders, led by owner B Watson. The inspiration for its look was to recall the era of the original Harmons’ Building, which was rebuilt in 1918 after fire had claimed the original. The Harmony Tea was the first occupant of The Radiant’s current abode. Photographs of that restaurant depict a sunny tearoom with white curtains and a bright interior. For her 21st Century revival, B incorporated the tearoom feel into the front parlour, while reaching for a more audacious design world to employ in the speakeasy lounge. This combination brought to life an interior where bold Art Deco ideas are filtered through the more Victorian sensibilities of Western Canada of the early-20th Century.
Birthed Amidst a Pandemic
When construction began in the fall of 2019, the goal was to open for Easter. The wee happenstance of a global pandemic got in the way. After long construction delays and a government shutdown, The Radiant finally opened in June of 2020 with no sit-down customers and a delivery menu of heat-at-home meals. This was hardly the opening we all had dreamed about. The first event held on our stage was a virtual fundraiser for activists in Minneapolis and Calgary, the George Floyd protests being at their peak. Over the first few months of operations, we changed operating procedures multiple times, changed menus multiple times, operated an outdoor patio, put on events with a changing list of restrictions and limitations, and even shut down with confirmed COVID cases amongst our staff. Throughout it all, we have operated from two fundamental values: resiliency and community. Opening a new restaurant is never an easy proposition. Opening during a pandemic has challenged us in ways that we did not envision or plan for. The strength that we have developed as a team and as an ownership group keep us hopeful for the future. In looking for silver linings, we believe that the lessons learned during this pandemic have reenforced our commitment to our community, to our staff, and to keeping our space responsive to our customers and reflective of their safety and comfort.
As with so much in life, it is the people that matter. To whatever degree The Radiant has succeeded and will succeed on being the space it wants to be, its heart is with the staff, artists, and people who make it a reality every day. Through its commitment to LGBTQ2A+ artists, The Radiant was happy to be a hub for Banff Pride this past October. By continuing to hire musicians even amidst the restrictions of the pandemic, it has established a willing cohort of brilliant Calgary based artists that perform weekly. And through the incredible team that works at The Radiant, all the struggles of operating during a pandemic have been met with understanding and honesty, ensuring safety protocols have been met and followed diligently.
The Radiant is owned and operated by a group of friends and colleagues who call the Bow Valley home in partnership with the Harmon family, a multi-generational Banff family that owns and operates the building in which The Radiant resides. We are also a family affair, owned and operated by three sets of couples. For all of us, Banff has been our long-term residence and home. Some of us are raising our children here, while one of us was born here.