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Bob Wakeham: Balkan grill far better than a boozy Boncloddy bar

Some people living on Boncloddy Street in the centre of St. John’s were glad when this sports bar closed and would like to see it given new life as an eatery.
Some people living on Boncloddy Street in the centre of St. John’s were glad when this sports bar closed and would like to see it given new life as an eatery.

In the latest instalment of my personal six degrees of separation saga, I was able to draw a direct line of connection to the story this week about that couple hoping to open a Balkan restaurant at the site of the former Sports Bar on Boncloddy Street in St. John’s.

Bob Wakeham

Now, first of all, before I captivate Readership Land with my relationship to that area of town, I would suggest city council follow the lead of councillor Art Puddister and find a way for this Bosnian family to circumvent a foolish municipal technicality and be given an honest crack at having their dream reach fruition.

It’s really a no brainer, is it not?

From an economic point of view — even from a feel-good angle, one not normally associated with politicians — it makes so much sense for council to expedite the change in the zoning regulations, and let Eldin Husic and his wife proceed with their plans to give townies (and visitors) another unique, internationally flavoured eatery.

(In contrast to Puddister’s sensible suggestion emanating from what The Evening Telegram of the ’60s and ’70s headlined as “Council Notes,” there was Sandy Hickman’s Monty Python-like proposal the other day to the effect that the best way to deal with those macho bikers violating the tranquillity of Signal Hill Road is to construct another route up to Cabot Tower, one that would, according to news reports I read, swing right by the Miller Centre, where people are preparing to die in the palliative care unit and others are enduring agonizing rehabilitative procedures.

Like that television commercial for a foreign beer would exclaim, in a classic British accent: “Brilliant!

A quicker solution: have the Newfoundland Constabulary enforce laws already in place and patrol Signal Hill with more vigilance, instead of wasting time filling ticket quotas in areas where speeders are easy to nab). But I digress (characteristically so), I would admit.

Another pragmatic reason to change the Boncloddy Street rules is to give the residents there a chance to have a classy use for the old Sports Bar building, after many years of having to tolerate the fallout (so to speak) of a hard ticket tavern in their neighbourhood, and, for a while, the headquarters of a delightful motorcycle gang, until it was shut down by the cops.

Now, I never dressed head to toe in leather — the image does generate a certain sense of nausea — or raced around the downtown on an obnoxiously loud motorcycle, and therefore had no association with the gang whose members did their thing on Boncloddy Street for several years.

But I have a history at the bar, a dive by any standards, a place of habitation during my time of consuming beer by the truckload. It was an all-male establishment, although no self-respecting woman would have wished to spend time in a dwelling where the smell of piss and stale beer would knock a good sniffer sideways, and a place where the only entertainment was the occasional racket and a jukebox that seemed to play nothing but hurtin’ songs.

My bond to the place goes even deeper: I actually lived above the tavern, a convenient location for someone who thought of beer as the nectar of the gods (until the gods turned on me and my liver). Friends of mine would suggest all that was missing from the apartment when I was its sole resident was a round hole in the floor and one of those poles once a fixture in fire halls, so I could just slide down each morning to the bar for my morning straightener.

Another connection to the bar: I named a dog of mine “Sport” in memory of the Boncloddy Street establishment where, as it turned out, some of my last days of abject debauchery were spent.

Sport was one of the finest dogs I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had more than my share of four-star pets) and, aside from being absolutely lovable, as cuddly as they come, had a rather unique talent: he responded to trout the way a beagle responds to rabbits.

When I was fly fishing in a shallow brook, Sport would stumble over the rocks, make his way to my side, intently focus on the end of the line, and would literally shiver with excitement whenever a fish would breach and show attention to the fly. The routine was always the same: whenever I’d swing the pole (rod, for the purists) back for a cast, Sport would follow the trajectory of the line, and would then watch — mesmerized, it seemed to me — as the fly eventually landed and floated down the brook. On cue, he would once again quiver whenever a trout would jump for the fly.

And when I’d finally hook the fish, Sport would raise his head skyward and howl, in appreciation (I liked to think) of his master’s work.

Sport lived for about 12 years, and we had many a grand fishing trip together.

Sappy (perhaps in the perspective of some), but true.

And thus ends this meandering, six degrees of separation submission.        

Except to wish Mr. Husic and his wife the best of luck. May they have better experiences than I did on Boncloddy Street.


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at


EDITOR’S NOTE: After this column was written, there was news Friday that the Husics had abandoned their hopes for an eatery on Boncloddy Street and will look for another location.

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