The new and improved pub coming to a corner of Bowen Trunk Road near you is close to arriving but the precise due date is still undetermined.
However, pub manager and owner, Glenn Cormier, said this week that if you marked the spring on your calendar, say sometime in late May, there is a strong likelihood you'd be right.
Ground was broken on the ambitious construction project in May of 2016. For Glenn and his wife Meredith Cormier, along with business partners Nick and Connie Shaw, the pub project has been a labour of love and, at times, a labour that served up kegs of stress Cormier says support from the community has gone a long ways to getting them through the more challenging times.
There's an exited buzz about getting a new public house where a parking lot once was and people in the community at large, on the ferry and in the pub itself are speculating when they'll be able to raise a pint – or two (or more) – in the spanking new watering hole. Cormier says he is often asked about exactly when the new drinking/socializing era on Bowen begins.
“We have not pinned down an opening date yet, nor am I planning the parties,” he told the Undercurrent this week. “Still too much to deal with. I know everyone is excited for the big closing party and the opening party but there are too many unknown factors for me to commit to dates yet.”
The ownership group, who have all played a role in building the pub, have had roadblocks to navigate, such as, back at the start of the project, getting caught up in a municipal election that delayed jumping through the various zoning hoops. More recently the weather presented roadblocks, or rather rain and snow blocks.
“The fall of 2016 was one of the wettest falls on record and then December came and so did the snow,” Cormier said. “With snow on the ground for most of last winter we probably lost several months in productivity. I came close to shutting the site down a couple of times.
“(There were) many days the builders spent their mornings shovelling snow from the build site just to try and keep things moving,” he added.
When they took over in the summer of 2012 the pub and building were in such poor shape that work had to be done just to get things running again. The kitchen wasn't functional but they had our island's annual baseball tournament to feed. The makeshift kitchen they created was a barbecue on the patio and in pulling it off they quickly earned their place in the community.
The Bowen Island pub opened in 1987, at that time the frame was built up over a cinder block building that had been there circa the 1960s. It would be charitable to say the building has seen better days and regulars are anticipating the new drinking, eating and entertainment digs to come. Ditto the staff.
“I can't wait,” longtime server/barkeep Jennifer Loree said during a shift this week. “This place is kinda falling apart. It's going to be warm and lovely and wonderful down there.”
Kitchen staff member Sam Sandeen echoed Loree, saying he's “extremely excited” and that from what he's seen on the site he is certain the town is going to get an “amazing” new pub.
The building is up and standing and passersby are getting a feel for the look of it. Inside is roomy with a large bar area and a stage that is, unlike the current one, bigger than the proverbial postage stamp. The outside landscaping should be finished soon and while there is still work to do on the interior a little imagination suggests the atmosphere will be warm.
The building includes four apartments up top for staff housing and three ground floor retail spaces, with the businesses that will occupy them already determined. Negotiations are ongoing for one so Cormier isn't releasing those details but the other two are Marie Neys and the Catching Stars Cooperative Gallery and Susan Pratt of Fabulous Finds.
Upon the opening of the new, the old will be torn down. In a reversal of the way it was for decades, that upper space will take a turn as a parking lot, temporarily. “The long-term plans for that lot,” Cormier said, “is...(for) market sellable apartments but we don't have a timeline for it yet.”
The seemingly tireless Cormier, some 30 years in the food and beverage industry, has decided which items from the old establishment that they'll take to the new. Some things from the public house's storied history – “that iconic Bowen Island neon sign” – will make the move, but others are too worn. They may decide to give some mementos away, ones that do not dissolve in a puff of dust upon being touched, in a contest or a raffle.
Taking stuff from the old down a hill to the new isn't a long haul, but for Cormier the project has been a long haul and, he says, at times a challenging one. But he has stayed the course and remains happy he and his family moved here, bought and staffed (difficult to do on Bowen) a rickety old pub and then started to build a new one. For Cormier, it's really been about community.
“Meredith and I still think coming here is the best decision we made,” he said. “This community has been nothing but supportive of us the entire time. I have had a lot of bad days over the last while but our customers keep showing us their support and offering their help and words of encouragement.
“It really does feel like we're building a community pub.”