Jesse Kupina

Top 40 Under 40 2015

Photography Curtis Comeau

Age: 39

Job Title: Principal Partner, Two12 Social Co.

Why He’s Top 40: He’s working to make a positive impression for the bars and nightclubs that his company operates, making sure employees and patrons are safe.

If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “We act like the schoolkid being bullied when someone says something bad about Edmonton. Sometimes I think we need to grab a pair and stand up for ourselves collectively. I want us to have greater confidence in what we are on a global and national scale.”

Jesse Kupina is accustomed to pouring blood and sweat into his bar and nightclub projects. Tears too, but those only swell when the brawny operating partner of Two12 Social Company gets to talking about his admiration for his parents, his charity work with the Abbottsfield Youth Project and the importance of being kind – especially to someone who has had too much to drink.

“That should be the VIP. That guy who might be ill because they spent so much money at your establishment? I say, ‘Let’s take care of that person.'”

Kupina’s path to bar and entertainment management wasn’t conventional; he moonlighted as a stripper after university with a troupe he lovingly refers to as “Backstreet Boys on steroids.” He bartended at Union Hall before making his way up to general manager and owner of the venue.

He was a key industry spokesperson when the Alberta government implemented the Best Bar None awards and program in Alberta in 2010 – through which one of Two12’s nightclubs, The Ranch Roadhouse, has been awarded the title every year since the program’s inception. Best Bar None recognizes establishments that prioritize the safety of their patrons.

“Safety is sexy,” he says. “As fun as a nightclub is, it contributes to a lot of bad things; infidelity, alcohol abuse, domestic violence. A lot of stuff is on the perimeter of the drinking and the partying.” Kupinas proud to leave a positive mark on the industry, and frequently contributes to charity fundraisers through his latest venture, Central Social Hall.

Though it took a while for the Jasper Avenue joint to find its feet its first year, Kupina was determined to make the upscale gastropub concept succeed. Getting the menu up to snuff and turning the tide on negative social media eventually brought rewards: a second Central Social Hall was opened in St. Albert and there are plans to expand the brand to a third location next year.

“One thing that’s amazing about our city is the amount of second chances that you can get.” 

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