Pogue Fado closure comes during ‘worst climate’ for bars in Halifax: Expert

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By Haley Ryan - Metro Halifax

HALIFAX - Although news of the Pogue Fado’s closure disappointed many Haligonians Monday, one restaurant expert said it’s hard to operate during the “worst climate” in the scene’s history.

People walk by the Pogue Fado in Halifax on Tuesday afternoon.

Gordon Stewart of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said the Irish bar’s sudden closure is concerning, “but the numbers kind of support it in a way.”

“It’s a really tough business right now. The margins are razor thin, the thinnest I’ve ever seen them,” Stewart said.

In the last decade, Stewart said bar and restaurant sales dropped by $14 million in Nova Scotia: $9.1 million of that is in Halifax.

The social change where people drink at home and go downtown later has also taken a toll on bars, Stewart said, and for the Pogue, a student crowd has its drawbacks.

“You’re going more than half the week with very low business, then high-volume business on the weekends. It’s just not high enough to sustain the kind of cost that you’re carrying,” Stewart said.

Stewart also said with less people downtown during the day, restaurants have lost lunchtime revenue to the fringes of the city where more office buildings are popping up.

“You can go down Argyle Street …and you’ll be lucky if you find 50 people in all the restaurants, where in St.John’s, Newfoundland there’d be 50 people in one,” he said.

In a Facebook post, the owners of the Pogue cited the “current business environment downtown” as a factor in its closure.

Paul MacKinnon of the Downtown Business Association said he’s not sure what the owners mean by that, but said the high rents on Barrington Street need to come down to attract new businesses and help existing ones.

While the Pogue is the third bar to close this month, behind the Palace and G Lounge, MacKinnon said those other businesses are simply changing and will reopen with more of a focus on dinner than drinks.

“There’s concerns about things like late-night violence in cabarets, but we may be seeing more of a natural shift towards bringing people downtown earlier,” MacKinnon said.

“Things are changing in the industry. I wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily a decline.”

Organizations: Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, Downtown Business Association

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Argyle Street Newfoundland Barrington Street

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Recent comments

  • graham
    May 02, 2013 - 00:42

    I'm from the UK and the beer price is crazy, NSLC is your problem they charge bars retail price so people drink at home and come out late. Get sensible bar charges and close at 1pm. You are ripped of big time by the NSLC in many ways but Nova Scotians just think it's tax, IT'S NOT, they live the life of Riley at your expense.

  • in the business
    May 01, 2013 - 06:42

    We need to go back to an earlier 'last call' . As it stands, people just stay at home drinking their own alcohol until later in the evening, and as a result two things occur: 1) the spend less money in the establishment 2) they come in highly intoxicated, making them unservable and drunken idiots. If last call were 12:45, people would go out earlier. Bottom line. It would also cut down on the level of intoxication and people spilling out onto the streets in the wee hours, causing problems.