Owner wants Stone Jug to open

Bruce Branan speaks openly about Car­bon­ear’s new­est restau­rant

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

A his­toric build­ing in Car­bon­ear made head­lines this past week af­ter con­cerns were raised it doors might not open this sum­mer as planned or ever again.

The Stone Jug, for­merly the Stone House, has been un­der ren­o­va­tion for sev­eral years on Wa­ter Street, with a sub­stan­tial amount of money be­ing in­vested for up­grad­ing it to a restau­rant.

Amer­i­can busi­ness­man Bruce Branan is the pro­pri­etor or the project. Cur­rently in China, he spoke with The Compass by email last week to dis­cuss how he came across the prop­erty, the is­sues it faces and what to ex­pect in the com­ing months.

For sev­eral years, the Town of Car­bon­ear has been pro­mot­ing tourism and at­tempt­ing to pro­mote its down­town his­toric sites. The Stone Jug falls into that cat­e­gory.

But pur­chas­ing the build­ing sev­eral years ago was not some­thing that Branan had pre­planned.

“I came to New­found­land by chance, stayed and in­vested by choice,” he ex­plained. “I felt Car­bon­ear had great po­ten­tial for growth due to geo­graphic prox­i­mately to a de­vel­op­ing oil mar­ket and the re­pro­cess­ing plant in Long Har­bour.”

It was more than just in­vest­ing in a busi­ness. Branan has a pas­sion for her­itage struc­tures. In fact, he wanted to be sure that the build­ing kept its his­toric charm.

“From the be­gin­ning for the Stone Jug, it was all about step­ping up, do­ing the right thing and sav­ing the struc­ture,” he said.

Although he is stay­ing mum on the amount of money he has in­vested in the prop­erty, he con­firmed a project such as this could cost a sub­stan­tial amount of money.

“Her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture ab­sorbs a lot of cap­i­tal if your in­ten­tion is to re­main her­itage,” he noted. “I be­lieve if you’re go­ing to do any­thing at all, you should do it right or just don’t do it at all.” Fill­ing a void The prov­ince has in­vested mil­lions in tourism ads and mar­ket­ing over the past num­ber of years, of­ten por­tray­ing beau­ti­ful scenery and pro­mot­ing its her­itage. From colour­ful older homes to the land­scapes by the sea, it is seen as a place that oozes char­ac­ter and his­tory.

Car­bon­ear has a strong his­tory it­self, with many older build­ings and struc­tures and a deep con­nec­tion to the fish­ing in­dus­try. Many other places do as well. But Branan sees more po­ten­tial for those who are vis­it­ing, since not all ar­eas of the prov­ince look like the com­mer­cials.

“When th­ese vis­i­tors come based on ad­ver­tise­ment and do not ex­pe­ri­ence what they were led to be­lieve ex­isted in New­found­land, they post their own ad­vert on Trip Ad­vi­sor,” he ex­plained. “An ex­am­ple is Har­bour Grace. There is great her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture but cur­rently it is a lit­tle like Ber­lin in 1945 with di­lap­i­dat­ing struc­tures.”

Branan de­vel­oped a con­nec­tion with Car­bon­ear, and shares in the town’s be­lief that the down­town can be re­ju­ve­nated, lead­ing to an in­crease in tourism.

“The Stone Jug will be a cor­ner stone of the down­town,” he said. “We al­ways imag­ined that if we in­vested in the Stone Jug and it came out well, that it would snow­ball and spin off other op­por­tu­ni­ties…”

It’s not just his struc­ture that he thinks will cre­ate this rip­ple ef­fect. Any and all de­vel­op­ments and in­vest­ments in the down­town are equally ca­pa­ble of do­ing the same, he noted. With the plans the town has for devel­op­ment and growth, Branan be­lieves Car­bon­ear will be­come a des­ti­na­tion of choice for tourists and vis­i­tors. What’s the hold up? It was hoped the build­ing would have opened months ago, but a few things have caused de­lays.

Ru­mours over why the build­ing hasn’t opened its doors yet are run­ning ram­pant, es­pe­cially in­volv­ing gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions. But Branan wants to put them to rest.

“Let me make it crys­tal clear, it does not ben­e­fit any­one if a battle (hap­pens) be­tween gov­ern­ment and busi­ness,” he ex­plained.

One sit­u­a­tion that arose was the need for pa­per­work from a li­censed ar­chi­tect. When Branan be­gan the project, he thought the build­ing would be grand­fa­thered, since it was pre­vi­ously a bar. Be­cause of that, he didn’t have an ar­chi­tect on the project.

But when he be­gan to ap­ply for an oc­cu­pancy per­mit, he learned there needed to be an ar­chi­tect in­volved in or­der to sign off on the work done.

“We per­formed up­grades by qual­i­fied ven­dors for life and safety and added zero ar­chi­tec­tural con­tent (de­sign) to the orig­i­nal struc­ture,” he ex­plained. “So we did not have an un­der­stand­ing that an ar­chi­tect would be re­quired in such a case.”

Un­for­tu­nately, that is one rea­son why it has not opened yet.

An­other is­sue in­volves the third floor, which has a stage and over a dozen ta­bles. It is ex­pected to be used for pri­vate func­tions, in­clud­ing birth­day par­ties.

Branan told The Compass the build­ing is con­sid­ered “com­bustible” be­cause it has wooden floors, even though it has me­trethick stone walls. With that clas­si­fi­ca­tion, he is not sup­posed to have a third ad­join­ing floor.

“We are cur­rently try­ing to be so­lu­tion based, seek­ing op­tions and work­ing with Ser­vice NL,” he said. Get­ting it open There is al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity the project will not go ahead, but Branan is not pre­pared to quit just yet.

“I wake up ev­ery morn­ing and hope to­day will be the day ev­ery­thing gets re­solved,” he said.

If the project weren’t to go ahead, he ad­mit­ted he’d be heart­bro­ken.

“This would be a bad omen for the Bac­calieu Trail re­gion in gen­eral,” he said. “In­vest­ment and pros­per­ity will come to New­found­land as a re­sult of our suc­cesses, not be­cause of our fail­ures.

“I still be­lieve strongly that there will be a res­o­lu­tion and the Stone Jug will open this sum­mer.”

To see more pho­tos of the Stone Jug’s in­te­rior, visit our web­site — www.cb­n­com­pass.ca.

PHO­TOS BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

The sign that hangs out­side the Stone Jug in Car­bon­ear was made by owner Bruce Branan.

The sec­ond floor of the Stone Jug hosts sev­eral dozen ta­bles, and a wide se­lec­tion of chan­de­liers. The ceil­ing tiles are made of cop­per.

PHO­TOS BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

One of sev­eral large, hand­crafted stair­cases lo­cated in­side the Stone Jug. The wooden dow­els and posts were se­lected by Bruce Branan to fit with the her­itage ap­peal of the build­ing.

The grill in the open con­cept kitchen, lo­cated on the lower level of the Stone Jug.

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