Erin’s Pub under new ownership

Daniel MacEachern
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Musicians want it to remain the ‘kitchen’ of the traditional music scene

Shanneyganock frontman Chris Andrews, shown here, along with Bob Hallett of Great Big Sea, recently purchased Erin’s Pub on Water Street in downtown St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

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.

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Great Big Sea, Newfoundland Embassy

Geographic location: Water Street, Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • COR
    December 28, 2013 - 20:51

    Wicked! Big fan of Ralphie n da boys. I remember taking my grandfather there back in the day ! Oh the fields of anthenry n dirty old town ! Awesome! Can't wait to visit again to see the legendary new bloods! I'm sure you won't let us down boys! Cheers ! N congrats!

  • saelcove
    November 23, 2012 - 10:20

    Slow news day

  • JD
    November 22, 2012 - 13:58

    Now b'ys, you better not be thinking about getting rid of the bathroom headrests!

  • M
    November 22, 2012 - 12:33

    I think David should keep his negitive comments about St. John's to himself or better yet move. I think its great that the change in ownership of this bar has gotten the media attention it has, it shows that we still are a province that cares about our people and what they are investing in our culture. I think its great these guys want to keep the integrity of Erins and we should be congratualting people who put back into our province, not talking about what the outside of building looks like or why it is a story in the news .

  • J
    November 22, 2012 - 06:46

    Dale, you beat me to it. While I wish the gentlemen good luck on their endeavour they certainly need to sink a dollar or two into the exterior. One of the worst looking places downtown - and that's saying something. For that reason alone I don't think I have ever been inside it.

  • Dan
    November 21, 2012 - 13:14

    Best of luck guys, will be by to have a pint!

  • Jim R
    November 21, 2012 - 09:47

    So sorry to see Ralph go from the business. I saw him at one of his first venues with dennis Ryan, John Cameron and Johnny Lynn in the late 60's and have been a big fan ever since. Having said that, though, the pub is still in great hands. A big fan of Chris and of Great Big Sea as well.

  • david
    November 21, 2012 - 08:34

    Wow....someone sold a pub to someone else. You just can't up to date, with St. John's flying so high and fast.

    • Ryan
      November 21, 2012 - 17:50

      @DAVID If you want to be in a more exciting, faster paced city, move to Toronto or Vancouver. One of the most beautiful aspects of St. John's and Newfoundland in general is the small communal feeling its citizens share. Not to mention, Bob Hallett and Chris Andrews are two of the most successful musicians this province has ever produced. I am happy for them both, and look forward to seeing what they bring to Erin's!

    • david
      November 22, 2012 - 08:35

      Thin-skinned, irrational and defensive...if you were anywhere lese, you'd be in danger. Norm!

  • dave sturge
    November 21, 2012 - 07:31

    What about the exterior of the building? Hope the new owners have plans to clean it up and renovate the outside too. It's currently one of the ugliest and run-down looking buildings on Water Street with that ridiculous circular window on the second floor and the horrible corrugated metal siding. This is particularly bad considering it's in such a historic and heritage area.