For a short while in the late 1990’s my buddy and I owned a little sports bar in Powell River, and although it was a struggle, we were proud of it.
At least we were proud of it when we weren’t losing our minds.
It all began when I was living in Calgary and happened to visit my old friend Steve in Powell River after my marriage had exploded into smithereens. At one point during a beer and wine session while sitting at his kitchen table, we found ourselves talking about how we could do a few things differently in our lives. I mentioned that I had this great sports collection that would probably look mighty fine in a sports bar, and he looked at me and I looked at him, and light bulbs went on in our heads.
Shortly after our little kitchen table talk, we were eating in a little restaurant nearby and I said to my friend that this cozy little place would be perfect for a sports bar. We looked around, nodded out heads, and that was it. I went back to Calgary to drive truck 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, was cheap like borscht, 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. It was his idea to call it Kane’s, and so it began. Originally it was Kane’s Sports Bar but with the BC archaic liquor laws, 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. We had no idea. Unfortunately, the old adage that says 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 big highlights. 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 lives in Powell River. On another night I closed the doors and drank beer and talked until early morning with Jeff and Steve Carlson of the Hanson brothers. We had closed-circuit boxing matches, 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.
I was new in Powell River but because of the pub it didn’t take long before I was on first-name basis with most of the town.
It’s still going. The owner moved it to another place, asked if she could keep the name which I agreed to, and so Kane’s Sports Bistro in Powell River carries on. Minus all of my collection, which I took back home with me, of course.
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 then 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 and broke. Completely stressed. While people watched the big games on the TV’s, 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.
Other than these little things though, it was great.