Madhatters has taken the Best Bar None award for best bar or club in Grande Prairie for the second time. The venue also took home the prize in 2014, and is one of five bars that have been a part of the program since it started that year. Owner Jason Petrone says they were a big proponent of bringing it to the city.

“You look across the room and everyone that’s in this room is locally owned and operated businesses and that’s the most important thing. Obviously, we’re looking out for not only our neighbours and ourselves but the consumers that come to our businesses.”

Petrone adds that taking part helps them avoid becoming complacent.

The Best Bar None program works with bars and lounges across the province to encourage a higher standard of customer service and safety. A total of 11 local venues were accredited this year, which means they met all of the criteria set out by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

Winning this year’s top honour in the lounge category, renamed from Best Restaurant and Pub, is a restaurant new to the program. Both Boston Pizzas and Bar One got their accreditation for the first time in 2017, and the BP northside location came out on top.

General Manager Tracy Thompson says she was encouraged by the Mill Woods location in Edmonton to get involved, after they won in that city in 2016. However, she never expected they would win as well.

“I’ve actually learned quite a bit. I figured I’d been with Boston Pizza for 18 years; all these little extra steps to make sure your patrons and your staff are well looked after.”

Thompson says they’d like to go even further, potentially creating a shuttle service so patrons aren’t driving home from the establishment. A similar ride home program is run out of the location in Dawson Creek.

Grande Prairie was the third city in Alberta to implement Best Bar None, and it was used as a model to kickstart it in Lethbridge. Roughly a third of all Class A Minors Prohibited venues in GP are involved, and coordinator David Young hopes to see it expand even further.

“It’s great to see the buy in in this city,” he told the crowd at Tuesday’s award ceremony. He stresses all venues taking part have done so voluntarily.

Awards were also given out to the Great Northern Casino in the casino category and Howlers Lounge in the campus bar category. Also accredited this year were Mr Mikes, Better Than Fred’s, the Crown and Anchor, Diamonds Gentlemens Club, and the Den Pub + Carvery.