Hart & Thistle Gastropub on Halifax’s waterfront closes down

Geordon Omand for Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - After five years of business on the Halifax waterfront, the Hart & Thistle Gastropub & Brewery is closing.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said owner and longtime restaurateur Bruce Keith.

“At the end of the day I have to do what’s best for my family and my extended family here at the Hart and Thistle,” he added. “This is the right decision.”

The Hart & Thistle was located in Historic Properties on Lower Water Street, with a large patio overlooking the harbour.

Keith said the reason for the closure was “no question” due to the unsustainable debt load he took on after closing another restaurant venture and while preparing the Hart & Thistle space for opening in 2009.

“The debt isn’t structured well. It’s high interest,” he said. “It just got to the point where it’s pulling us backwards so fast that we can’t get ahead.”

Staff were told of the closure on Tuesday night during a meeting at the restaurant. On Wednesday morning, the gastropub announced on its Facebook page that they were done.

Keith said he felt “gutted” by the decision to close the restaurant’s doors.

“I’ve been pushing the ball uphill for a long time.”

He cited a number of other contributing factors in the closing, including low foot traffic.

“If you have a business on the waterfront it’s a hard scrape through the winter months,” said Gordon Stewart, head of the province’s restaurant association.

“I’m actually quite shocked,” he said of hearing about the Hart & Thistle’s shutting down.

Despite the closure, Keith did not blame the restaurant’s location.

“This is a great spot,” said Keith. “It will work. It does work. It just needs someone to come in with a clean debt line and the place makes money out of the box.

“Someone’s going to get very lucky with a restaurant here.”

Halifax restaurants, bars challenged since 2010: head of provincial association

Nova Scotia’s restaurants and bars are still struggling to recover to 2010 business levels, according to the head of the province’s restaurant association.

“The food and beverage industry has been very challenged since business slowed down over the last three or four years,” said Gordon Stewart.

Stewart blamed the downturn on an economic slump and a drop in tourism numbers.

According to Stewart, the food and beverage market takes two-and-half times longer to bounce back than any other sector.

“The first thing (consumers) cut out is not the new TV.”

They stop going out to eat and drink, he said.

To illustrate the industry’s downturn, Stewart said liquor beverage sales in Nova Scotia restaurants and bars have dropped by $13.4 million over the past decade.

Nearly 10 per cent of that was in Halifax alone.

“That takes a huge slice out of the bottom line,” he said.

Geographic location: Historic Properties, Lower Water Street, Halifax Nova Scotia

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