A popular local watering hole and entertainment venue once owned and operated by a pair of popular and well-known Newfoundland musicians is now owned and operated by just one.
Bob Hallett of Great Big Sea is now the sole proprietor of Erin’s Pub on Water Street, having bought out the ownership stake of Shanneyganock frontman Chris Andrews.
The two got together in the fall of 2012 to purchase the historic establishment from Ralph O’Brien, frontman for Sons of Erin, who opened it as the province’s first authentic Irish pub in 1986. It quickly became the proving ground for many of the province’s legendary traditional music artists and groups.
Both Hallett and Andrews insist there’s not an ounce of acrimony at the heart of the latter’s departure.
“Over the years it became obvious to both of us that our visions were very different for what Erin's could be or could become and both of us recognized that,” Hallett said.
Andrews, who, like Hallett, cut his teeth as a musician on the Erin’s stage, admits it wasn’t easy to walk away from the pub that has been such a big part of his personal and professional life.
“At this time, what I thought was the best decision was for me to move along because I've got a lot of things on the go and I wasn't being able to pay the attention to the pub that I wanted or needed to,” says Andrews, who will be busy with solo projects, Shanneyganock’s 25th anniversary shows and his other pub, the Newfoundland Embassy, which he and co-owner Tom Nemec — former Connemara frontman — opened five weeks ago in the former home of Lar’s Fruit Mart on New Gower Street. (The little bar across the street from Mile One Centre boasts 22 beer on tap, with another three on the way in the coming weeks.)
Hallett’s vision for the future of Erin’s Pub is intrinsically tied to his plans to reinvent Tavola, the restaurant and tapas bar next door to Erin’s that he opened in 2013. At that time, the intention was to expand the pub into Tavola’s dining room space and make use of its kitchen.
“Of course, I got sidetracked by many distractions, but I think that vision is still valid,” says Hallett, who has decided to shutter Tavola while long-overdue renovations, repairs and reinvention takes place in the 125-year-old building.
“I couldn't realistically try to run the restaurant while we're in there banging holes in walls and moving huge things around.”
A precise picture of what the two combined spots will be once completed is still taking shape, but Hallett says he’s inspired by what Jason Brake has done with Blue on Water: taking two spaces and making them one, but still with a degree of separation.
“Create more kitchen space for Erin's, create more dining space, and create more relaxing space while still keeping its value as St. John's original and greatest music room,” he says.
Hallett feels now is the right time for the change because an older demographic of customers are patronizing businesses on Water Street east and they’re more inclined to frequent places like the Duke of Duckworth, the Ship Inn and The Black Sheep than they are to head to George Street.
“It's not quite as testosterone driven and it's a comfortable space to enjoy a night out and I want Erin's to fit that matrix a lot more than it has,” he says.
“I'm really excited about this new era and we're looking forward to … giving it some new life and energy and making that room the destination it deserves to be.”
For a neat little history of Erin’s Pub, check out this documentary by Peter Furlong and Cody Westman.
Fellowship of the Geeks
After spending the first year of its quest in the comfortable confines of the Rock House Pub, the Geek Bar is moving into its very own den of geekiness.
Owner Jody Bowen and her “band of bearded sidekicks” have found a new home on the corner of Duckworth and Cathedral Street in the former home of the Reluctant Chef.
“We’re beyond excited to build a space specifically for all things geeky,” the bar wrote on its Facebook page announcing the move.
“Our customers — our Geek Family — gave us the courage to take this big scary leap, so whether you had a beer or two over the last twelve months or became one of our permanent fixtures, your support has meant the absolute world to this little team of geeks.”
The new space will be quite a bit bigger than the current home above the Rock House entertainment venue. In addition to a common bar area, it has three rooms, each of which bear a different geek culture inspired name and offer even more of the amenities and games that have endeared the watering hole to a growing and loyal customer base.
The Lair will be home to all things role-playing games, complete with a proper dungeons and dragons table and a well-stocked library of books and resources; The Great Hall will be a tribute to all things Harry Potter, with house-themed gaming tables and chairs, a great hall-inspired ceiling and a fully stocked craft section; The Library, meanwhile, will be home to reading chairs, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, and a projector and screen for movie marathon nights.
On any quest, adventurers need the proper equipment if they hope to find success, so the Geek Bar has started a crowd-funding campaign to help it stock the shelves with even more consoles, televisions, board games and books.
“From now until October 7, we’re offering awesome deals on dnd drop-ins, craft kits and gift certificates in exchange for helping us cross things off our wish list,” the Facebook post reads.
Check out thegeekbar.ca to learn more about the many crowd-funding options available.
The new space is expected to be ready to welcome its geeky patrons in late October.
A former neighborhood convenience store turned hair salon in the centre city area could soon have a new life as a yoga studio.
A discretionary use application was submitted to the City of St. John’s seeking permission to change and increase the occupancy of the establishment on the corner Freshwater Road and Hamel Street in the Rabbittown area. The building is currently home to the Oriental Hair Salon.
The proponents intend to expand occupancy by 41 per cent into the second floor, where the plan is to set up offices for counselling services related to the yoga studio downstairs.
Hours of operation are Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, and classes — offered by one of the three employees — are limited to eight people.
A handful of Hamel Street residents wrote to council expressing their concerns about the redevelopment, specifically as it relates to parking and the area map used in public communications.
At Monday’s regular St. John’s city council meeting, Coun. Hope Jamieson said she responded to the residents’ concerns and that after she offered more information and clarity, they were comfortable with the business getting the green light.
City planning and development staff recommended that the application be rejected based on insufficient on-site parking and because the use would be more intense than the existing business. Still, council voted in favour of the application, with three councillors and Mayor Danny Breen dissenting.