Chef Evan Bursey might be St. John’s’ most determined chef, even though he technically only has two days under his belt as a restauranteur.
Bursey’s eatery, Fort Amherst Pub, was plagued with disaster, suffering two opening week floods, each one washing him out of commission for months. Each time, Bursey regrouped and reopened. This time, however, he’s left the pub’s original Water Street location in favour of Churchill Square, where Bursey is hoping to be open for mid-June.
For those unfamiliar with Ft. Amherst Pub’s arduous beginnings, here’s the recap: It started last July, just days before the would-be grand opening. After renovating the location at 320 Water Street since early 2016, Bursey arrived at the bar to find water pouring from the ceiling (a bathroom leak from the property above). Bursey was forced to renovate again: floors, walls, ceilings, to the studs, along with countertops and kitchen appliances.
Fast-forward four months, Bursey opens the bar to the public, then two days later, it’s another flood, worse than before. Kitchen equipment is ruined, renovations are needed, and Fort Amherst Pub’s ten employees were sidelined once again.
With the bar swamped for a second time, the way forward wasn’t immediately clear.Everything from more renovations to a food truck was considered, until the Churchill Square opportunity (a vacant Pizza Hut) became the obvious choice.
“I feel that we may have new opportunities through being out of the downtown core … and feel that uptown St John’s is looking for options outside of downtown, that are not franchise operations,” says Bursey.
He counts the additional parking, access to the building for deliveries, and bigger kitchen space as part of his silver lining, which he’s gotten adept at finding.
“As I was cleaning out the former Pizza Hut location, there were some pennies and dimes underneath the service stand … I made the joke that I made more money already at the new location than in my past year,” says Bursey. “Like I said, you’ve got to try and stay positive.”
That optimism has kept Bursey afloat in the meantime, despite the struggles.“In any situation with a loss, the time waiting to be made whole is always excruciating,” says Bursey. “Some of the suppliers have been great, however, I’ve had my share of difficult conversations, for sure.”
“It’s been stressful for sure,” says Bursey.“With only one income in our household, a baby on the way, and so many uncertainties, I’ve been trying to take it all one day at a time and mitigate any risks while trying my best to move forward and get my business back up and operational.”
Bursey is now ready to start again, along with a new addition, happy-and-healthy baby Alice. The extended Fort Amherst family is on the rebound, too, with many returning to the pub when it re-opens.
Patrons can look forward to some elevated pub grub on the menu. “I think things like my burgers, wings, hot dogs, fish and grits and other unique classics speak to one end of the spectrum while I have items like fried watermelon, vegetarian pulled pork, and lobster spring rolls…” says Bursey, who will be offering eat-in and take-out service.
Fort Amherst Pub opens in Churchill Square (29 Rowan Street) mid-June.