WATCH: It’s a Victoria landmark, the oldest brewpub in Canada, but a year ago today, it was nearly destroyed by fire. Fast forward to one year later and the famous watering hole is anything but lost. Mary Griffin reports
A year ago Thursday, a fire started in a Victoria landmark, and within minutes, it looked like Spinnakers Brewpub was lost. But fast forward one year, and the situation is much different.
Last year, on Nov. 23, firefighters managed to save the building. Just nine days later, a section of the pub opened up for business.
On Thursday, Spinnakers owner Paul Hadfield walked up the stairs to the second floor where the fire started.
“This is where a lot of the damage happened when the fire burned,” Hadfield said. “There used to be fireplaces.”
When the brewpub was being rebuilt, Hadfield decided to remove both fireplaces in the building. As he walked through the pub, he thinks about how close he was to losing his business.
“This is the area over here where the fireplace was. And [the fire] went down through the base of the fireplace itself and it burnt out the floor structure. It continued up through the shaft,” Hadfield said.
It started in the second storey fireplace and within minutes smoke and flames were billowing out the roof. Firefighters battled to keep the fire burning inside under control. During lunch that day, long-time custommer Suzanne Baril noticed something wrong.
“I’m watching the smoke and it’s starting to roil on the deck,” Baril remembered. “And people on the deck are kind of like, being uncomfortable. And I said, this is going to catch on fire. We have to get out of here.”
Customers and staff got out and there was hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. But Hadfield kept the entire staff on payroll. With a lot of help, he reopened a portion of the business.
“We’re just so delighted that so many people wanted to play along with us in that process,” Hadfield said. “Not subjugate us to a more normal process which would have taken a much, much longer period of time which, quite frankly, I don’t think we would have survived.”
Some of those firefighters were at Spinnakers on Thursday to celebrate the year since the fire and the business reopening, including Lorne Atherton from the Victoria Fire Department. “I remember it was a pretty challenging fire,” Atherton said. “There was some wind to deal with. But fortunately we saved the building.”
In recognition of their efforts, Spinnakers brewed a beer dedicated to firefighters. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Victoria Firefighters Charitable Foundation.