Swans Pub embraces graffiti, turns it into new logo

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Swans Pub has seen its share of vandalism.

The popular pub has stood at the corner of Store Street and Pandora Avenue in downtown Victoria since 1989 and was the scene of a highly publicized window-smashing spree in January 2021.

“We were boarded up for, I think, six to eight months,” says owner Mike Boyle. “It was to the point people thought we were closed.”

Boyle says it took hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and renovations to restore their popular patio, but once those repairs were complete, a small act of vandalism put him over the edge.

The offending image? A four-inch Sharpie drawing of a bird on the side of a door frame.

“It’s just a four-inch drawing, but with everything else, it was the final nail in the coffin,” says Boyle.

Instead of repainting, Boyle and his staff have claimed the crudely-drawn creature and have decided to use it as a new logo.

Today, the pub posted a digitized image of the graffiti to its Instagram page with the following caption:

“A while ago someone came and tagged our front door in the night. While it was annoying and disrespectful we kind of liked the image. So we made the most of a bad situation and decided to use it as a secondary logo.

“So I guess this message is to the person who decided it was ok to use our building as their own personal sketch pad. We are using your image and if you don’t like it you can come forward and complain about it, we can have a nice chat.”

Boyle would like to meet the artist, but for now, chatter among staff has turned to merchandising. “I think we’re going to make some hats,” he says.

The image itself raises many questions, chiefly what kind of bird it is.

Abby Shewfelt is a server at Swans and runs the Instagram page. “We’ve had this debate actually among the staff. We think it’s a pigeon,” she says.

Boyle, however, thinks it’s a duck. He refers to a print on the wall near the door that features a favourite image of former Swans owner Michael Williams. The picture features a downtrodden, bottle-toting duck with the caption coined by Williams upon the pub’s opening in 1989: “I may be an ugly duckling now, but watch me turn into a swan.”

Boyle says if there’s anyone who’d espouse the idea of embracing graffiti as a marketing idea, it would be Williams.

“I like to think that if he was here, this is something he’d do as well.”

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