Pender Harbour’s landmark Garden Bay Pub was destroyed in a fire Thursday morning, Nov. 26.
The Pender Harbour Fire Department responded to a 7:30 a.m. call and by approximately 1:30 the fire was extinguished. About 20 firefighters worked to contain the blaze, which had already penetrated the roof when the first responders arrived.
“We got it knocked down [but] it’s 100 per cent lost by the look of it,” Fire Chief Don Murray told Coast Reporter, speaking from the waterfront establishment at 4958 Lyons Rd. He described the damage as “extensive.” The roof was destroyed as was most of the building – only a few walls have been left standing. No one was injured.
The cause is undetermined, said Murray, but arson is not suspected, and the RCMP are contacting the owners and carrying out a routine investigation.
Numerous people gathered at the site, which had been a community landmark since it was built in 1932.
“It’s quite a shame for us that it’s not there anymore,” said Halfmoon Bay resident Ron Johnston, who owned and operated the Garden Bay Pub with his spouse Marita Jokela from 1982 until his retirement in 2014. “We completely rebuilt the place over the years.” They’ve received a “constant” flow of emails and phone calls since Thursday. “It is a loss.”
The pub was a seasonal operation, relying on boaters, tourists and the community. When operated by Johnston and Jokela, it was an important venue for the Pender Harbour jazz and blues festivals. Local and off-Coast musicians played seven nights a week during some seasons.
They also fundraised for the Pender Harbour Health Centre and the Egmont Volunteer Fire Department, used it as a venue for Rotary Club meetings and raised approximately $250,000 over 30 years. “We tried to keep that money within the community,” said Johnston.
The pub was not consistently open under the new ownership, and had been closed for several months following a May 2019 incident where a man described by RCMP as an off-duty employee smashed out windows with tables and chairs causing more than $50,000 in damage.
The Garden Bay Pub is the second well-known Pender Harbour watering hole lost to fire in the last decade.
The Grasshopper Pub was destroyed by a blaze in October of 2013. It has since been rebuilt and reopened. After that fire the Garden Bay Pub held a fundraiser for staff. “They were our neighbours and friends,” said Johnston.