Kal and Jana Merkley, owners of Babylon Lounge

Thunder Bay Entrepreneurs Set to Open New Lounge

Story and photos by Nik Fiorito

The worldwide pandemic has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and that includes Kal and Jana Merkley, two local entrepreneurs for whom this year has been especially trialsome. But the pair is still working tirelessly to open their longstanding vision of a super-sensational lounge in the heart of the waterfront entertainment district. 

Over two and a half years ago, the Merkleys set out to make their mark on the local food and drink scene. And while there have been more twists, roadblocks, and setbacks than any aspiring business person should have to endure just to get to opening day, you would never know it by the positive outlook and infectious smiles the couple possess as they tell you about their journey and their excitement to finally introduce Thunder Bay to the Babylon Lounge. 

Nestled in a recessed entryway at 234 Red River Road amongst now-established hotspots like The Foundry and the Sovereign Room (where Kal spent a number of years as one of the first employees), Babylon Lounge brings a new element to one of Thunder Bay’s most active night scenes: a science-infused bar and cocktail menu combined with a sensory experience that appeals to sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. The food and drink menu is “molecular gastronomy”—that is, creative and innovative pub grub. The walls, fixtures, and features were all carefully chosen and installed with purpose, each one lending itself to the mysterious-yet-inviting atmosphere. The goal is that the lounge is a place to be able to socialize without screaming, and will eventually feature a gaming area with a shuffleboard table, pinball, foosball, and the like.

With COVID-19 cases spiking locally and the threat of another lockdown looming, the lounge will begin with unique take-out food options like crepes, paninis, and salads inspired by the Merkleys’ travels and experiences. Other pandemic restrictions have also required them to come up with a new way of offering their adventurous drink options: they will be available for take-out in sealed containers in an “add your own spirits to the mix” format. While in the take-out- and delivery-only phase, the lounge will be referred to as “Babylon Quick Fix,” which the Merkleys plan to open by the beginning of the month. The name is a turn of phrase paying homage to the agile nature of the restaurant’s development, as well as being able to grab a quick drink and bite.

For updates on Babylon Lounge, follow them on Facebook @Babylonloungetbay.