At the Newfoundland Pub and Restaurant in Ottawa’s east end, the accents are familiar, and the food is like mudder used to make. Newfoundland maps, dart trophies, and fishing nets line the walls, and Cabot 500 licence plates from the ’90s hang near the bar.
There aren’t any Newfoundland beers on tap – you can’t buy them in Ontario – but under some painted fishermen’s heads and black-and-white pictures of the cod fishery lies an industrial-size bottle of Screech. Bartender Bobby Taylor says for the Newfoundlanders who go there, the Newfoundland Pub is a bit of home away from home. “It’s like going home for an hour or two or three or a night out,” said Taylor, a Newfoundland ex-pat from Garnish on the Burin Peninsula.
“If you can’t afford to go home, you can still go to the Newfoundland pub.” Newfoundland-themed clubs, restaurants, and bars such as the Newfoundland Pub have sprung up across the country, in places as far afield as Sault Ste. Marie, Scarborough, and (inevitably) Fort McMurray. Fort Mac’s McMurray Newfoundlanders Bar and Restaurant is a dance club that also serves chips, dressing, and gravy. The bar hosts darts tournaments, square dances, and Sunday jam sessions, according to club manager Megan Rodgers.
Rodgers, an Old Perlican-native who has worked at the club for the past eight years, said on busy nights about 250 people pass through the bar’s doors, many of them Newfoundlanders. She said a tight-knit community has formed between the Newfoundlanders who go there. “We’re just one big family,” she said.
Rachel McCarthy, a server at The Goofie Newfie, a Fergus, Ont., bar and grill that serves Newfoundland-inspired dishes such as pan-fried cod and deep-fried bologna, said a similar community has sprung up around the East coast-themed restaurant because of the large Newfoundland population in the area. “We have [Newfoundlanders] here all the time,” she said. “We have a huge Newfoundland community in Cambridge, which is only about twenty-five, thirty minutes away, so we constantly have people coming. There’s definitely a community that’s built up around the place.”
Back in Ottawa, Taylor, who used to patronize the Newfoundland Pub before taking a job behind the bar a year ago, said he works nights alongside two other bartenders from St. John’s and Outer Cove. He said the pub, originally opened by a couple from Bay d’Espoir and now under Chinese ownership, has been trying to get a bigger contingent of Newfoundland acts to play shows.“The grub is first rate. A lot of people come here for the fish – you know a Newfoundland pub is going to have some good fish and chips – but we’re trying hard to get more Newfoundland stuff on the go,” he said.
But Taylor said working at a Newfoundland-themed bar can make him miss being home every now and again. He said he enjoys the job, but like many of the displaced Newfoundlanders at Newfoundland bars, he said he has plans to head back to the province one day. “I’m going home in five years,” he said, smiling. “I’m only 45, I’m retiring in five years – I’ll be back.”