Blurring the line between restaurant, club, and rec centre, King Street West’s SPiN Ping Pong Social Club is a sprawling underground venue at the heart of Toronto’s activity bar movement. Flow Water chatted with General Manager Andrew Bascombe about the venue’s unique character, and found out how SPiN finds its flow.
FW: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at SPiN.
AB: I’m the general manager of SPiN. I came to SPiN because the people behind it are really smart, forward-thinking people. They had a concept that made a lot of sense, and there was a huge gap in the community for something like this. SPiN’s now four years old, and it’s grown every year into this beast that we know now. So much that the walls can’t contain it anymore. We’re doing programs now where we take the tables out to people – music festivals, birthdays, weddings. It’s called SPiN Out, because puns are amazing.
FW: What’s the story behind the name SPiN?
AB: If you’re playing ping pong, anyone worth their salt has to be able to move the ball. You have to be able to arc the ball, shape it, backspin, chop it. SPiN has a lot of different definitions – and it helps to be a little mysterious with it – but it really comes down to gameplay.
FW: What makes SPiN unique?
AB: I think the misconception is that [people think] “oh, it’s the ping pong bar.” Yes, we do have 12 ping pong tables, but we also have local, changing art. We have DJs five nights a week. We have an amazing kitchen that serves 100 kilometre food and is “ocean wise.” We have a great cocktail program. If it was just the ping pong, that would be something in itself, but it’s that plus the other areas that make it truly unique.
FW: How does Flow fit with the SPiN brand?
AB: We’d been looking for something in that market for a while. We wanted a Tetra Pak or styled water that was good, that was tasty, and that fit with our brand. We have a great bar program, but there are some competitive players that want to drink water, so Flow has really helped us fill that gap.
FW: As a business manager, how do you define success?
AB: Right now, it’s really hard for people to make money out there in the world. They have to watch every dollar that they make. If at the end of their day they want to come by and spend their hard earned money with us, I want them to walk out thinking “I’m really glad I did that.” That’s success more than anything, more than dollars and cents.
FW: What would you say to someone who’s never been here before?
AB: If you’re looking for an occasion to be social, this would be a great opportunity for it. It could be a business excursion for people that don’t know each other very well. It’s an amazing first date place. It’s the icebreaker of icebreakers. It initiates you to engage each other.
FW: How do you find your Flow from day-to-day?
AB: I think positivity is the only way to do it, especially in this industry. There are a lot of long hours and a lot of late nights, but being surrounded by such positive people helps a lot. If people are excited to come to work, you can see it on their face, and then the customers are at ease and have a better time. It’s a circle: positivity creates positivity.
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