By Adam D’Andrea
After more than 50 years as an Amherstburg institution, the Verdi Club will be undergoing a complete facelift and opening as a family-friendly entertainment centre.
The club was purchased by the Jones Group and Don Hearn and Sons Inc. and will be renamed The Fort. According to Brad Hearn, he and Jones Group president Terry Jones have been kicking around the idea of opening a family entertainment complex for over a decade.
“I’ve always wanted to open something that had family fun,” Hearn said. “My kids are growing up and it was always a pain driving to the other end of town or out of town. We felt there was a need for something more local.”
In addition to a bar and restaurant with “different, more pub-style food,” The Fort will also eventually include bowling lanes, go-karts, laser tag, outdoor volleyball and an arcade. Hearn and Jones have invested several million dollars into renovations, as the building itself required several upgrades as well.
“The more we think about it, the more land we think we might need,” said Hearn. He added that the bar and restaurant would be open by the end of January and have a casual, sports-bar feel to it. Reservations for Super Bowl Sunday are already flying, with only around 30 available spots left.
The six bowling lanes, which will be installed within the next few months, will be located in the former bocce ball courts and extend out to the hall area. The hall will essentially be eliminated, aside from a small party room that will hold around 100 people.
According to Hearn, former Verdi Club members have been dropping in to see progress on the renovations and have warmly received the new look. He’s hoping the members continue to drop in with their grandchildren once The Fort is officially open, stressing that the whole family can participate in the activities being offered.
“The arcade games aren’t just for kids. I’m 46 years old and I love playing pinball,” he said.
Hearn isn’t a first-time investor in Amherstburg, and The Fort likely won’t be his last investment in town. He said one of the main reasons he continues to put money into Amherstburg is because it’s proven to be very “development friendly” over the years.
“There’s probably a little bit less red tape than if you wanted to open up in a big city. They seem to make decisions a little quicker because they want the jobs,” Hearn said. “It doesn’t take months to ask for things and get answers on them.”
The Fort is expected to have its grand opening within the next two-to-three months.