Survival and expansion.
Two words that are rarely used in the bar and restaurant worlds, but two that Stu Connor and staff will be celebrating on Saturday.
This weekend the owner of beloved Kensington haunt the Oak Tree Tavern is marking the half-decade milestone operating the biz as well as the expansion to the room below — raising the capacity from 60 to around 200 and raising the level of revelry that much higher.
“Two floors of craziness,” Connor says with a laugh. “Or two floors of whiskey drinking.”
Prior to the big day, Connor spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: Congratulations. Five years in this industry is a pretty good milestone.
A: Yeah. It is. (Laughs) It went by pretty fast.
Q: What do you have planned for the big day?
A: We’re launching the patio because I took over PRLR, the cocktail lounge downstairs, so I’ve made the new patio. I’m changing it a little bit, added more drams, more whiskies, made a games room in the back, so I’ve added dartboards and pinball machines, and going to connect with a few groups that want to do game nights. I’m hoping to do some solo live music acts and I’ve been talking to Danny Vacon, so hopefully I can get Night Church (Vacon’s residency evening that used to be held at Wine-Ohs) here …
Q: So if you’re expanding, I’m assuming things are going very well? It seems that you’ve become an important part of the neighbourhood and of the live music scene in that time?
A: Yeah, it seems to be the only live music venue in Kensington … Our Thursday (Trash, Twang and Thunder) nights (booked by the famed Richie Ranchero) have been there for five years, we have a comedy night (Wednesday) that’s been there for five years, and then live Irish traditional music every Sunday for the past three years or so. So music and entertainment three, four days of the week for five years.
Q: And, of course, the food is a big part of things. You were featured on You Gotta Eat Here! awhile back.
A: That’s true. Our episode of You Gotta Eat Here! I think it aired last February. I know the show’s cancelled but I think they still air it for another five years, so you see our episode for the next five years I hope (laughs).
Q: What else do you have going on Saturday?
A: Since it’s our fifth birthday we’re doing a five-hour happy hour from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., all drinks are $5, we’ve shortened our menu a little bit, so we’re going to have a $5 food menu, our burgers, nachos, stuff like that. We’ve got Peter and the Wolves playing all night — those guys are a pretty good staple at Oak Tree, they’ve played a few times. They’re almost becoming our house band, I think. (Laughs) Every time they play it’s a packed house and people go nuts. Those kids are phenomenal.
Q: Over the five years you’ve probably built a pretty loyal clientele and there are a lot of people who want to support you and help you celebrate.
A: Yeah, I’ve got a big group of regulars, especially from the neighbourhood. I’ve got another big group of regulars who come in the school season, I got a lot of ACAD students hanging out there, which is nice. I keep the prices pretty reasonable for Kensington, I guess, which brings in a lot of students. We have the special nights for students, where the beer is cheap — it helps them for the school year. (Laughs)
Q: If there is one motto that Oak Tree Tavern adheres to and has over the past five years, what is it?
A: A good motto, other than, “We’re all nuts”? (Laughs) Our mascot is a squirrel so it’s kind of suiting … “Just go nuts at the Oak Tree,” I guess.
The Oak Tree Tavern celebrates its five-year anniversary on Saturday.