The Little Sports Bar

For a short while in the late 1990s, my friend and I owned a little sports bar in Powell River, and although it was a struggle, we were proud of it.

Proud of it when we weren’t losing our minds.

It began when I was living in Calgary and was visiting an old friend in Powell River after my marriage had gone up in smoke. At one point during a drinking session at his kitchen table, we found ourselves talking about how we could do a few things differently in our lives, and I mentioned that I had this great sports collection that would look mighty fine in a sports bar.

He looked at me and I looked at him, and light bulbs went on.

Shortly after our little kitchen table talk, we were eating in a restaurant nearby and I said to my friend that this cozy little place would be perfect for a sports bar. We looked around, nodded our heads, and that was it. I went back to Calgary to drive semis in ice and snow again.

Not long after, my buddy phoned me and told me the little place we’d been in was now up for sale, and before we could say “I didn’t mean it”, we had bought ourselves a little fifty-seat joint.

We didn’t know how to run a sports bar. He was a construction worker and I was a truck driver. But we did it anyway. And it was his idea to call it Kane’s, not mine.

Originally it was supposed to be called Kane’s Sports Bar, but with the archaic liquor laws in BC at the time, they had us change it to Kane’s Sports Bistro because we weren’t allowed to have the words bar or pub in it. We were only granted a B license which meant kids could come in, and grown-ups had to eat something while drinking. (these laws have since been changed).

I put my collection on the walls, we set up three big televisions, and away we went. Unfortunately, the old adage that one must be in business at least five years before making a profit seemed absolutely true in our case.

We could see success still a long way off, and we lasted less than two years and finally sold it. By that time I was beginning to pay my rent with a credit card.

But in that short time of being pub owners there were highlights. HOFers Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour, and Frank came back later that night for dinner with his niece, who lived in Powell River.

And Red, refereeing the game that night and wearing a microphone, told the crowd how great our place was.

On another night I closed the doors and drank beer and talked until early morning with Jeff and Steve Carlson of the Hanson brothers who were in town for a promotional thing at the rink. (The third member of the notorious trio, Dave Hanson, stopped by for just a few minutes).

Not only did the Carlson’s  fill me in on what life was like after Slap Shot, but they also told me what a great guy co-star Paul Newman was, along with plenty of stories from their mostly minor-league playing days.

The three us drank a lot of the day’s profits that night.

We had closed circuit boxing, hockey parties, soccer teams coming in early to watch big games from overseas, and the local junior team aired post-game radio shows out of our place.

And on Saturdays we put out peanuts and encouraged folks to throw the shells on the floor.

I was new in Powell River but because of the pub it didn’t take long before I was on first-name basis with much of the town.

There was also a silver lining from having this little place. The publisher of the local newspaper was a regular and asked me to write a regular column for his paper. And because my name was out there from the pub and the newspaper, I was eventually hired by BC Ferries because they knew I had a good relationship with the public.

It was a great experience, but all in all, unless you’ve got a ton of dough and don’t have to be there all the time like we were, I’d suggest sticking with a job where you actually get paid.

Running a pub is more work than you can imagine. I was exhausted, broke, and completely stressed. While people watched the big games on the TVs, I didn’t have time because I was running all over the place. The bills never stopped coming in. My partner and I had begun to quarrel. I wasn’t sleeping properly, and because I had unlimited access to the beer dispenser, I was drinking too much after hours.

All in all though, it was a tremendous experience. But I wouldn’t do it again.

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