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Yes B’y's, a new bar in downtown St. John’s

Tara O’Reilly is the owner of Yes B’ys Social Bar, a new lounge and soon-to-be restaurant in the former home of Chinched Bistro on Queen Street in downtown St. John’s. She hopes to cultivate an esthetic and atmosphere that exudes and celebrates the province’s culture.
Tara O’Reilly is the owner of Yes B’ys Social Bar, a new lounge and soon-to-be restaurant in the former home of Chinched Bistro on Queen Street in downtown St. John’s. She hopes to cultivate an esthetic and atmosphere that exudes and celebrates the province’s culture. - Kenn Oliver

Queen Street watering hole celebrates Newfoundland culture and history

There’s no right or wrong age at which to start crossing items of one’s bucket list.

Tara O’Reilly, for instance, at the age of 30, started completing hers around this time last year.

“I said, ‘I have so much stuff on my bucket list and I have no reason not to start doing them now,’” says O’Reilly, a native of Kilbride.

In the months since, she’s done the standard stuff like take a solo vacation and a mother-daughter trip to Las Vegas, but she’s also done a few less conventional things, like an 18,000-foot tandem skydive — the highest in the world — and whole-body cryotherapy where she was exposed to temperatures of -150 Celsius for three minutes.

O’Reilly knocked another item off her bucket list Friday with the opening of her new bar called Yes B’y's Social Bar, located on Queen Street in the former home of Chinched Bistro.

Owning and operating her own watering hole has been on her list for some time and was fuelled by a decade of working in the bar scene while she was completing a business degree at university in Calgary.

After several years of saving money and bolstering it with some well-timed plays on the stock market last spring, O’Reilly took a leap of faith in the fall, quit her job and moved back to Newfoundland, and immediately set to work on making Yes B’y's a reality.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” she admits. “I thought it was going to be a turnkey operation, I’ll just buy a liquor license and away we go. That wasn’t the case. I didn’t know the process, but I learned as I went and everyone was so helpful.

“Even the stuff that went incredibly bad, learning from that has been so awesome.”

If ever a business was a reflection of the owner’s personality, it’s Yes B’y's. The cozy two-storey establishment is bright, welcoming and a little quirky.

It’s also a reflection of her pride in the province and its people.

The brightly coloured walls are adorned with common Newfoundland colloquialisms and there are a number of flags throughout — both the unofficial pink, white and green standard and the official version. Patrons may not notice immediately, but staff will sport the colours of the official flag in the uniform, with blue jeans, white T-shirt, something red and a piece of gold jewellery.

“I want it to have a Newfoundland theme,” O’Reilly says “Something that exudes our culture and all the positive aspects of (it).”

One thing you won’t find is an abundance of television. (There is one hidden away upstairs that O’Reilly says broke her heart to install.)

“My favourite bars … they never had TVs and you actually have to socialize with people and that’s where the memories come from, the way I see it.”

Instead, O’Reilly has a healthy supply of board games, and plans a host of regular activities and special events, including live music, paint nights, open mike comedy, Brewga — yoga, but with beer breaks — and a trivia night hosted by local Justin Foley Entertainment and appropriately titled “Guess B’ys at Yes B’y's.” On the calendar for month’s end is a pair of Colin Hollett comedy shows.

“I want to constantly have something happening, always something fun,” O’Reilly says.

Patrons hoping to enjoy a snack with their suds will have to wait a little longer, as she hasn’t been able to finalize plans for the kitchen and back of house.

“That’s not my area of expertise. I’ll openly admit that, but whoever wants to come on board and make it their own and do their thing, that would be great.”

There’s a philanthropic element to the operation, too.

In recognition of Canadian Forces veterans, Yes B’y's will open every day at 11:11 a.m. sharp. Moreover, O’Reilly, who has no direct connection to the Canadian Forces through family, plans to offer a discount to veterans and current serving members.

“If they didn’t do what they did, then I wouldn’t be here doing this,” says O’Reilly. “This is my dream and I wouldn’t be here doing this if they never made their ultimate sacrifice.”

Moreover, O’Reilly also plans to institute a profit-sharing plan with her employees, which she figures will number five or six, including herself.

“I’ve never heard of that in a restaurant or a bar, but I feel like there’s people out there that love this industry just as much as I do, so I want them to be compensated for that.

“That’s what’s going to make us different from the rest of George Street. The people that are going to work here are going to want to see it succeed just as much as I want it to.”

With the downturn in the province’s economy in recent years, success in the downtown St. John’s business environment might be as simple as staying open. While retail businesses tend to struggle to stay afloat more than food and beverage operations, there are no guarantees. Look to Bistro Sofia, Woody’s, Second Cup or a number of other short-lived operations.

O’Reilly, true to her effervescence and can-do positive attitude, remains confident that Yes B’y's will succeed.

“There isn’t really a doubt in my mind that we’re going to do well. I feel that good and that confident about things,” she says.

“I think we’re going to be a place where people really want to be, not so much for the inexpensive beers, or the awesome food once we have it, but just for the experience overall.

“I want people to leave here really happy and saying, ‘That was a cool experience, that was a lot of fun, we just made some memories.’”

If you weren’t already sold, bar prices should seal the deal. Domestic beer will sell for $4.25, imports for $5.25, highballs for $4 and shots for between $4.50 and $5.50.

Twitter: kennoliver79

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