President and CEO of Vintage Group, Lance Hurtubise tell us the bottle of wine he’s saving for a special occasion and why

Lance Hurtubise started washing dishes when he was 12, at ‘The Butcher Block’ on 10th Avenue SW, which became ‘Mother Tucker’s’ and is now Craft Beer Market. As he says, smiling, “there’s a lot of history here as I’ve been around.”

Born in Calgary, Hurtubise has worked off an on in the restaurant business all his life. “I love it,” he explains. “It’s exciting. It’s a new adventure every day. It’s a great job where every day people come to see you to have a good time. Not like a dentist where nobody wants to see you; everyone wants to see you.”

Did Hurtubise always want own restaurants? “I was a dishwasher who thought I was smarter than the busboy, I thought I was smarter than the waiter, and thought I was smarter than the manager. I thought I was smarter than the owner and then I realized I should have stopped at manager,” he laughs.

He started Moxies in 1986 on Southport Road SW, originally as Muncys, but quickly changed the name as everyone kept calling them Munchies. “When we opened Moxies, the big thing was how much French Fries could we put on a plate. So it looked like this great value,” he says. ”We were one of the highest volume restaurants in western Canada. We would do $54,000, which is nothing today, but our average check was $10.10, so in 110 seats we’d be doing 5,400 covers a week. It was lined up from open to close.”

After building Moxies to 10-12 restaurants, Hurtubise left in 1993 and opened ‘Santa Fe Grill’, later to become Vintage Chophouse, and two Luciano’s Restaurants, which became Redwater Grill, Macleod and Stadium.

“I have ADD,” explains Hurtbise, “which is perfect for this business as you can have 37 things going on at the same time and not be stressed out, and be in total control. It works out well.”

Bookers was added in 1998, followed by Rush in 2008. “We recruited Justin Leboe from Bermuda, and he designed the kitchen for Rush. It was everything we wanted, but we opened a month before a recession.” “The business is constantly evolving,” he adds. “We’re constantly doing renos; at Rush we’re doing major renovations to the bar in January, and will be shutting down for it.”

He also has exciting plans for a new restaurant; the people are in place and he’s ready to go when the location is finalized.

So what bottle is Hurtubise saving for a special occasion?

“It’s a ‘05 Lokoya. I love collecting nice stuff, I have some beautiful, beautiful wines including a vertical of Rothschild, and a vertical of 4 vintages of Screaming Eagle – but this one was special. It was my birthday and we were staying at the Cardinale House in Napa, had just had lunch at the French Laundry and were drinking this. The host at the house said “you need to drink this in 10 years”, and handed me this bottle. Written on the bottle is ‘Drink on 60th, Brian.’ I was with friends; it was a special day.”

But his pride is his 1999 Bollinger Bullet. “I’ve always wanted one and I bought it for charity at the Willow Park Auction. Only 207 bottles were made, but it weighs a ton.”

Photo by Ingrid Keunzel

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