Marian and Tom Bunton are back in business eight months after closing the doors to their restaurant and lounge, selling off its assets and planning their retirement.
“Thankfully, we kept our liquor licence just in case we needed a Plan B,” says Tom.
The Buntons are among a handful of disappointed downtown property owners who had offers to purchase last winter from a developer with big promises.
They say they agreed in good faith to sell their building at 146 and 148 Christina St. North. They believed their old restaurant building, The Ravenous Gastropub, would be demolished to make way for an elaborate new entrance to Bayside Centre.
At the time, the Buntons said they felt like their ship had come in. After 33 years in the restaurant business, they were ready for some time off. They shut down and sold off the furniture and kitchen equipment. The Gastropub was stripped of its antiques and decor.
“We had no reason not to believe that the sale would go through,” says Marian. “It was an unconditional offer.”
But they got a rude awakening. The closing date was delayed three times. Finally in June, the Buntons realized it wasn’t going to happen.
Time for Plan B.
This month, they opened a new spot in their building they hope will become a hot spot for live music and good food.
The Pub is markedly different from The Ravenous Gastropub, says Alanna Seery, the Bunton’s daughter and manager of the new business.
“It has a different atmosphere but, when the kitchen opens in November, we’ll have some of the Ravenous Gastropub favourites like stout steak & mushroom pie, venison, and tomato bacon beer jam flatbread,” she said.
Craft beers and premium liquor are featured, along with shareable plates of appetizers and caramelized beer and cheddar dip.
The 60-seat pub opened Oct. 13 after the Buntons found new furniture, built a stage in the back corner and scouted around for new décor. It’s been an interesting few months, said Marian Bunton.
A five-foot wooden Indian statue stored away in a backroom was stolen during the summer, and then found in someone’s backyard after a widespread social media campaign. It’s always been the building’s good luck charm and is back on display in The Pub.
An outpouring of support has come from friends and other business owners who offered their time, talents, furniture and equipment to get The Pub open.
“Even the musicians have pitched in,” Marian Bunton said.
Currently, The Pub is open Thursday to Saturday nights for drinks, light snacks and entertainment. Thursday nights feature Sarnia’s Jen Brace hosting open mic; The Pub’s house jazz band “Bad Gilligan” plays Friday nights and Saturday has rotating featured bands. This month’s lineup includes acoustic songwriter Mark Blayney (Nov. 5), Rockabilly Swing band Twin-Fin (Nov. 12), acoustic songwriter Adam Miner (Nov. 19) and Butch Haller & his Chesterfield Ramblers (Nov. 26).
In about a month, Tom Bunton anticipates the kitchen will be open, dinner will be served and hours will be extended.
About 10 jobs will be created as well.
Upstairs, the 150-seat Trinity Lounge – formerly a trendy music venue for the millennial crowd – is open again, but only when bands play on specific dates.
The Pub at 146 Christina St. North can be contacted at 519-491-7874 and has a Facebook page.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or call 266-932-0985.