Shooters Tap House would have been celebrating 40 years in the community in 2022.
However, because of the ongoing public health crisis and the resulting restrictions for dining in, live music, and dancing, the establishment has closed for good.
Owner Ryan van Baal described the decision to close as “impossible”.
“It’s kind of been some time coming but I just kept holding out hope that things would eventually turn around with COVID.
“So I’ve been paying to kind of float the bar ever since. It just doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better, and it looks like it’s going to be this way into the new year, and I just can’t afford to keep going,” said van Baal.
Van Baal purchased Shooters in 2014 and put more than $100,000 into the site that included a brand new kitchen that was unveiled in September 2019. But, he said, it was hard to shake the image of the old bar that people would party and get drunk at. People were always surprised when van Baal would tell them that they now had a full Red Seal food menu.
Then COVID-19 hit the world and the provincial government mandated that restaurants close their doors to the public on March 17, 2020. The four months of closure was hard on the establishment with no food or liquor sales. When they were finally allowed to reopen, business was slow.
Then they finally got to a point where they got legs back for the most part, but were shut down again for the patio and take-out only service.
“And for a pub to be take-out only and patio-only is hardly worth the effort,” he said.
Van Baal blames COVID-19 restrictions on the restaurant industry 110 per cent as the reason why he made the decision to close.
“I was profitable February 2020 beforehand,” he said.
Doors to the restaurant closed for good on Monday, Nov. 1. Windows are now shuttered.
An online post read “Goodbye Friends” thanking residents for making Shooters Tap House part of the community for almost 40 years, had been shared 145 times in 24 hours.
“We did everything to fight to keep going. We opened ghost kitchens and everything else to keep going. It was working but it just wasn’t enough,” said van Baal.
They were down at least 50 per cent when he reopened his doors in May, 2020. Every time there was a change in health regulations, they would lose another 10 or 15 per cent of the customers who could potentially walk through his doors.
“Our niche market was dancing and live music, and we were one of the last live music bars around,” said van Baal.
“It’s pretty unfair that they can pack stadiums for concerts and stadiums for hockey games with 30,000 people, but we’re not allowed to have 50 people in a nightclub dancing. It just doesn’t make any sense,” remarked van Baal.
Van Baal said he had to let his staff know about the permanent closure the day of, because of possible liability issues if people decided to call friends and have parties at the bar as a last hurrah.
Plus, he said, he didn’t know for sure what he was going to do until the day before anyhow.
“Just because there’s a lot of things weighing on you – if it’s the right move to do, if you want to wait a little longer, you second guess yourself a lot,” he said.
“I just can’t keep bleeding,” he said.
He also wanted to close in a situation where he is not completely bankrupt in order to be able to pay his staff and vendors and other financial obligations.
Van Baal said it’s cost him a lot of money to hold on this long to the restaurant, but even if the province suddenly allowed live music and dancing, it’s now too little, too late.
He has come to the realization that no matter how hard he tried, it’s not going to be enough. He lost too much over the past two years, there is no coming back. He has not made any decisions yet about what he is going to do with the space.
“Being a long-standing pub like this, it was very hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, was to close the business.”
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