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With 25 years behind and a silver lining ahead, After 8 Pub closes doors

After 8 Pub is calling it a day after 25 years of business.

The Forrest Drive bar has been known over the years as a destination for billiard games, live music and karaoke, and one of the few drinking establishments outside of the downtown area.

It was opened in 1995 by Patricia Dartnell. She sold it in 2010 to Patrick McArdle, who rebranded the After 8 Neighbourhood Billiard Room as a sports pub, replete with a golf simulator that cost $60,000 at the time, or $70,265 in today's money. Dartnell wasn't immediately available for comment.

After 8 Pub, known for its billiard games and screenings of Ultimate Fighting Championship is closing down after 25 years in business. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

McArdle told NNSL Media in 2010 that the PGA Tour-endorsed simulator with a 15-foot screen was the best one on the market.

"I miss it for sure. It was nice to be able to go swing a club in the winter. It was fun while we had it," he said on Monday.

McArdle and his business partner Misty Colborne sold it in 2013 to Colin Snow, brother of the most recent owner Jamie.

“I was up here in 1996 and I remember going there as a kid on Sundays to play pool,” said Snow, who has owned and operated the pub for the last four years.

But the hard reality of dollars and cents has brought the pub's roll to an end.

"What closed us down more than anything was the high cost in rent," said Snow. "(There were) high costs since I bought it. We were struggling."

The pandemic made the situation worse.

After 8 last served customers on March 17, then closed along with most other businesses around the time when the NWT's first confirmed case of Covid was announced.

Snow said he tried to re-open a few times but he couldn't keep up with the cable, power and rent bills, wages and insurance costs.

While other bars and businesses were reopening in mid-June when the NWT entered phase two of the recovery plan, Snow realized he wouldn't be able to join them because he had too many outstanding bills to settle.

"I didn't have the funds to get product like alcohol and food. At the end of it, I let everything sell out."

Snow and his landlord, the real estate company CloudWorks, entered into a rent-to-own agreement for the space. They differ on some details of how the agreement worked in practice, but concur that it didn't work out as hoped.

"We were trying to work with (Snow) on a path to ownership," said Rob Warburton, president of  CloudWorks. "We went above and beyond to make that work. In the end it just didn't work out. We never raised the rent."

Snow's efforts to secure some assistance from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) didn't pan out in time. He was evicted after his financial standing with the landlord deteriorated.

"We possibly could've recovered if the rent was cheaper," he said. "It hit me down and then hit me again. After that I thought 'what's the point?' It wasn't really getting anywhere."

He began selling off all the furniture and appliances Oct. 21.

"I have a storage (space) full of stuff but lots of people bought things. I would say 70 per cent of the items have sold already," he said.

Snow isn't sure what he'll do next. He figures he'll look for a full-time job and try to move on.

"I think it's pretty sad," he said. "Not even (just) for me and my family (alone) but there's a lot of history. It's just a pub but there's a lot of history there. My brother owned it, I owned it. It's about the community, too."

McArdle expressed surprise that the pub lasted as long as it did, due to its location away from the city centre and the fact that it was "never really a big money maker."

"The pool league has slowly died away a little bit," he said. "The bar business in Yellowknife is a tough go. The liquor board is hard to deal with. It's always sad to see any business close in Yellowknife. But it's just a sign of the times. People aren't going out (as much) and I think that started even before Covid. Just the expense of drinking in Yellowknife. It had a good run, one of the longest of any bar in town."

Warburton said a non-profit organization might set up shop in the space as soon as March or April. He declined to provide details that could identify the new tenant.

"We're looking at something of community benefit. It won't be vacant. It's the silver lining of this situation. We might do a demo and cleanup. It depends on what the end user wants."