Silva Bay Pub building destroyed by fire

Sounder News

Thursday, October 5 2017

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

The Silva Bay Pub and former liquor store building were consumed by a major fire which broke out just after 1:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 5.

Gabriola Fire Chief Rick Jackson said it appears the fire may have started in the back of the kitchen, based on where the heaviest damage occurred. The former liquor store, the front lobby, and the kitchen area were completely consumed. The fire did not get into the main eating area, the bar, the upper eating area or the bathroom hallway.

Jackson said it will be up to the insurance adjusters to decide whether the building is a total loss or if there is anything salvageable.

Mark Sager, owner of the building, and Gaetan Brousseau, who’s been running Silva Bay Restaurant since May of this year, both said the intent already is to get it rebuilt and back up and running.

The plan had been to have improvements made this month to keep Silva Bay open through the winter.

Sager said, “Obviously we are heartbroken. We had a spectacular summer, and we were excited to be going back into year-round operations. It’s time to rebuild and regroup.

“The new furnaces were going in next week, the new windows were on order, those were to go in probably in four weeks. We were looking forward to carrying on with the wonderful summer. Gaetan had done such a superb job.”

Sager added that it was a loss of “a big piece of Gabriola history.”

Built in the late 1960s, the pub has “gone through a number of iterations. It’s where I had my stag. It’s been a place for parties and celebrations for people for decades. Our intent is to rebuild and bring something back.”

Fire Chief Jackson said that in the back of the kitchen “everything is gone, including the floor.”

Overall, he said, the actual fighting of the fire went well.

“There are always challenges - the main one being water supply. We maintained those hose lines with all that water. 

“We were relaying water from the Islands View hydrant, tenders were shuttling, dumping it into the porta-tank - we had a number of hand-lines and the monitor going, it went well.”

Any further investigation will be up to the insurance company.

Jackson said this is the third major fire for Silva Bay in its history.

The hotel adjacent to the pub building burned down in the 1970s, and the staff quarters (where the concrete pads are now) burned down in 1984.

Fred Withey’s father Les owned the property from 1946 up until the early 1970s when he retired.

Fred said the shipyard was built “when we moved to the island at that time.”

Over the years many boats were built there, including fishing boats, navy boats and, finally, yachts. The shipyard was the main employer on the island during the 50s and 60s. 

“In the early 60s he built the marina which included a dining lounge (later to become the first pub) which my wife and I managed in [19]65/66.”

After Fred left for Prince George in 1966, Les sold the marina/dining lounge in 1967 to an off-island group. A couple of years later he sold the shipyard to Arnie Benson. 

“The people who bought the marina then built what is now the restaurant/pub which also included the soon-to-burn-down hotel as part of it.”