Look up as you enter O’Hare’s GastroPub and you will see a sign in Gaelic that reads “Céad Míle Fáilte,” which translates to “one hundred thousand welcomes.” It is difficult to estimate how many people have passed through the door since O’Hare’s opened for business 30 years ago, but it is safe to say that warm welcomes have been plentiful.
Jack O’Hare is the patriarch of Steveston’s well-loved pub. Originally from Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, he left his homeland in 1967 and moved to Canada where he worked his way up with CP Hotels. In 1987 he and his wife Jane became “purveyors of good times” when they opened O’Hare’s, fulfilling Jack’s lifelong dream of owning a pub.
Jack retired seven years ago. Continuing in her father’s footsteps, his daughter Erinn Bryan and her husband Grant Bryan operate the family business while Jack and Jane enjoy their well-earned retirement. Jack pops in three to four times a week and has a beer on Friday nights. Erinn jokes, “He is the Chief Quality Control Officer.”
O’Hare’s succeeds in creating the atmosphere of a neighbourhood Irish pub.
The beamed ceiling is inscribed with Irish county names and the front room pays homage to Ireland’s numerous well-known artists and poets including Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats.
A few years ago the outdoor patio was renovated and has proven to be a very popular spot to dine and enjoy a drink. A complete renovation of the bar is next on the to-do list. The time has come for an upgrade although Jack mentions it will be a huge job, and must be in keeping with the character of O’Hare’s.
An extensive selection of craft beers can be found on tap.
Every Friday night a keg is featured. An impressive 20 beers are represented on tap and 15 of them are rotating local craft beers. Jack says, “It is exceptionally popular and is attracting a lot more ladies to drink beer.” Richmond based Britannia Brewing Company and Fuggles and Warlock are both on tap. Other popular breweries include Driftwood Brewery (Victoria), Four Winds Brewing Co. (Delta) and Strathcona Beer Company (Vancouver).
This past summer O’Hare’s collaborated with Britannia Brewing Company and Fuggles and Warlock to produce a limited run of Sea Lion Watermelon Sour. Based on the success of this venture, Erinn says, “We are looking at collaborating with other breweries.”
If you are looking for an authentic Irish beer to accompany your meal, Guinness, the famous Irish stout, is the pub’s top seller. Smithwick’s red ale is another long-standing traditional Irish beer that was established in 1710.
Much of O’Hare’s food offerings have remained unchanged; customers enjoy the staple dishes that have been offered since the beginning. Some of the menu mainstays include homemade meat pies, beef dip, the O’Hare’s burger, and beef stew in the winter. And while there are tried and true favourites, there is also room for experimentation with the monthly feature sheet.
“We sell a good time.” Jack O’Hare
Jack mentions two significant historical turning points for B.C. pubs. The provincial government banned smoking in bars and restaurants across British Columbia by 2000. Jack says, “There was a high mortality rate for pubs.” This led the business owner to place a higher emphasis on the food menu.
Another change came in 2013 when B.C. liquor reforms allowed children to join their parents in neighbourhood pubs up until a designated hour (10:00 p.m. at O’Hare’s). As a result, O’Hare’s is now more like an Irish pub than ever; in Ireland it is commonplace for families to gather for a pub meal.
Allowing all ages to dine together has been advantageous for the business. Jack mentions, “In the past couples would meet at the pub. They would marry, have children and then we wouldn’t see them again for 19 years, but now we do!” Erinn adds, “It’s a real family place. We often see three generations come in together.”
O’Hare’s is a community hub. Erinn says, “If you come to the pub you are likely to run into someone you know.” You can also expect a warm welcome. Jack says, “Regulars will walk in the door and we know where they’re going to sit and what drink they will order.” He also points out, “The goal is to not have people wait. We serve them on arrival. Service is the most important thing.”
Erinn and Grant value Jack’s years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Erinn says, “He offers us his wisdom.”
In the early years O’Hare’s held a pig roast every Sunday and gave away the proceeds to non-profit groups. A party is scheduled for Sunday, October 1 to mark the establishment’s 30th anniversary. Erinn promises, “There will be a pig roast, Irish dancers, live Irish music and lots of good times!”
Comóradh sásta (happy anniversary), O’Hare’s GastroPub!