The new owners of Erin’s Pub are keen to keep a quarter-century of live performance going. Chris Andrews, frontman for Celtic folk band Shanneyganock, and Bob Hallett, member of Great Big Sea, recently bought the Water Street watering hole after plans to open a place, the Newfoundland Embassy, on Duckworth Street near the war memorial were stymied in March.
The musicians consider those plans on hold rather than cancelled, but in the meantime, the opportunity arose to buy Erin’s Pub from
owner Ralph O’Brien, selling after 26 years of operation.
“The main reason for both of us is a love of music, and we want to make sure that there’s still ample venues for people to be able to play traditional music,” said Andrews. “The other thing is we’re both getting a bit up there, too. We’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s nice to have a little something to keep you home and keep you interested and keep you on the go.”
Hallett said many of the pub’s customer base consider it “their living room.”
“Many of those people are huge followers of, or participants in, the traditional music scene,” he said. “Erin’s is kind of the kitchen and the heartbeat of that particular world, and it’s a world that both of us are extremely fond of on a personal and professional level. And we felt that the combination of our interests and our music and maintaining that business as Ralph O’Brien retired is a perfect fit.”
Andrews said Erin’s Pub is an institution where he and Hallett both started their careers.
“There’s a bit of a pull there too to be able to own the place where you get the start in your career. That’s pretty cool, too.”
The duo has been slowly changing things — gradual changes, said Andrews, because the pub already has a great clientele who like it the way it is. But they also want to attract new customers.
“At the end of this month, we’re redoing the bathrooms, with some more advertising,” he said. “Ralph had a great run there and did very well with it, but as you get older and you get used to something, it just sort of takes care of itself. We just want to be a bit of new blood into it and over the next year or two you’ll see changes, like the storefront will be done up.”
Andrews laughed when asked how much they plan to invest in the pub.
“Whatever we can afford to put back into the business, we most certainly will,” he said.
As working musicians, Andrews and Hallett both pointed out, they are involved in several dealings apart from the music side.
“We are both involved in various business besides our primary careers in performing music,” said Hallett. “I run a pretty busy management company, and Chris does a bunch of odds and ends. But this one sort of has a fair bit of synchronicity in terms of the brands that we’ve both established in traditional music and the brand that Erin’s has for being the original home for traditional music in St. John’s and a place that has a 25-year history of playing host to folk musicians and the people who love that kind of music.”
Andrews said the business aspects of his musical career have been a good start for his new venture as a bar owner.
“The music business prepares you for anything. You have to be everything in this business,” said Andrews. “But it’s been a great learning process for us too.”
A grand reopening is planned for January.