If you can’t beat CBRM city hall, at least you can get a drink

If you can’t beat city hall, at least you can get a drink downstairs at the one in Sydney, N.S.

On Tuesday, Cape Breton regional council approved a five-year lease for a new pub in the municipality’s community room, also known as the round room.

It’s a mostly unused space at the back of city hall that faces onto the waterfront. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been trying to lease it out for a couple of years.

Local businessman Danny Ellis, who opened the outdoor pub Portside last summer a little way down the harbour by the marine terminal, has agreed to pay $72,000 a year for the roughly 3,000-square-foot community room.

Building on success

He has reserved the named Boardwalk Taproom and Eatery for the city hall location, which will offer a variety of alcoholic drinks and healthier food options.

Ellis said he wants to build on the success of his seasonal operation, which employed up to 75 people last summer.

“Portside did well,” Ellis said. “It was an extremely good year. We’re pleased, and hence Boardwalk is a result of the success we had at Portside.”

Coun. Steve Gillespie initially opposed the lease, saying the municipality shouldn’t be in competition with private landlords.

Coun. Steve Gillespie says he objects to the municipality getting into the landlord business and to serving alcohol in the civic centre building. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Gillespie also objects to booze being sold at city hall, but he voted in favour anyway.

“I just don’t like the fact that we’re going to be in this business, but if it is the will of council to do so, then by all means,” he said.

Communities elsewhere have pubs along their waterfronts, and Gillespie doesn’t need to be concerned, said Ellis.

“Who would have thought cannabis would be legal in Canada?” he said. “Times are a-changing Steve, you know what I mean? You’ve got to get with it.”

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger says even though he’s from a different community in the regional municipality, he can see the benefits of developing Sydney’s waterfront district. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Councillors said Ellis’s Portside operation attracted a lot of traffic to the waterfront and was a boon to other restaurants and bars in the area. They voted unanimously to approve the lease.

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said even though he’s from Dominion, he could see the benefit of developing Sydney’s waterfront district.

“The businesses that you seen, Governor’s with lineups, Portside with lineups, it was just an incredible summer to see this,” Bruckschwaiger said.

Ellis said he has some work to do to get the new pub ready, including kitchen renovations and dining room decoration, but he hopes to open by April 1.

The interior is expected to seat up to 100 and there’s outdoor space for another 100 on the rooftop patio, said Ellis.

The Boardwalk Taproom is expected to employ up to 40 people, he said.

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