ST. JOHN’S, NL – Fed up with the mediocrity of professions like business development, customer service and sales, Allan Bearns decided to take it upon himself.
“I love arts and entertainment and it seemed like the right opportunity for me, so I just jumped in on a whim,” Bearns said.
The bet? To reopen the iconic center of traditional music on Water Street known as Erin’s Pub, maintaining its ties to the past while keeping the name and look, and working with and building on that legacy.
“It was a musical institution,” Bearns said, noting members of Shanneyganock and Great Big Sea rose through the ranks at the small Irish pub.
“I just wanted to continue the story of that.”
After the trial began in May, Bearns opened its doors for the first time on June 22nd.
Quite simply, it’s a place for music and laughter, he said.
“Best urinal in town man”
With less than a handful of part-time staff, Bearns works six nights a week alongside his 10-year-old Samoyed named Salty Dog.
“Three weeks ago I never poured a pint. I never made a Caesar two weeks ago. That’s the first coffee I’ve ever served in a bar,” Bearns said, gesturing to a table of Ontario men.
“And it’s excellent,” the man interjected over his French pressed brew.
Aside from the cocktails, when it comes to commercials and sound, Bearns doesn’t shoot from the hip.
As someone who grew up in Paradise in the early 2000s organizing punk shows and skate competitions, he has a wealth of experience and plenty of friends who are more than willing to lend a hand or perform.
When Nick Masters told his dad he was moving comedy shows to Erin’s Pub, his dad said, ‘This reopening? Do you still have the headrest in the urinal? That’s the best urinal in town, man.”
Comedy Fight Club
Alongside Mav Adecer, Stephen Vanier, Todd Butt, Andrew Legge and owner Bearns, Masters will perform a monthly comedy-variety show called Comedy Fight Club. They also invite special guests and have a DJ called DJ CBUNZ.
Vanier also runs an open mic called Fogged Up Comedy on Thursdays where anyone can perform.
As far as the Masters is concerned, the idea of comedy and traditional music being housed under one roof is not uncommon.
It’s basically a NL tradition.
“The Wonderful Grand Band did sketches and played music,” Masters said.
Then there’s Buddy Wasisname and the other Fellers.
“The B’ys wrote ‘Saltwater Joys’ and ‘Da Yammie,'” he said.
Also, folks from the traditional sessions are a rowdy bunch, Adecer says.
“They make us look like choirboys,” he said.
A decade-long ritual
Traditional music sessions at Erin’s Pub began around the year 2000.
It’s a place where like-minded musicians can work on their craft and learn from others, Billy Sutton said in a phone interview.
Sutton is a multi-instrumentalist and has been leading it for about 10 years.
When government-mandated restrictions closed the doors of Erin’s Pub due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t just a financial hit.
Suddenly a decades-long ritual was over.
Almost every Friday night for the past 20 years, Sutton had walked down Prescott Street to Erin’s Pub to meet the same musicians and the same regulars who loved traditional music.
“There are people like me who have been going to this pub since the early ’90s, and some of them since the early days in 1986,” Sutton said.
“It was just a big social blow to everyone. That was our place, that was our place.”
And it’s nice to be back.
“Allan is a lovely guy and seems to have a great head on his shoulders when it comes to business,” he said.
It is an institution with more than 30 years of marketing experience.
“He makes a lot of friends quickly, which is what a host needs,” Sutton said. “You have to be there and … not just be a bartender, but build friendships and relationships. That’s the whole idea of having a pub. And he is there. I would be very surprised if he wasn’t very successful.”
And he’s glad he kept the headrests too.
“Anyone who’s been there in the last 20 years, and anyone from outside, they’re always going to be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the place with the headrest,'” he said.