A popular Irish pub has abruptly closed its doors in Halifax, much to the surprise of loyal bar patrons.

The owners of Barrington Street’s Pogue Fado plastered papers over the windows of the establishment Monday night.

“There are two key components to this,” says former Pogue Fado owner Richard Stevens. “One would be people, the other public transportation.”

Stevens opened the bar with four friends a decade ago and they made a go of it until yesterday, when their lease came up for renewal and they decided to close.

“We just saw that in the three to five-year horizon, there isn’t much future in our industry downtown,” says Stevens.

Workers found out about the sudden closure through email and social media.

“No warning at all, actually,” says employee James Briggs. “We expected to come to work…we were actually open again for summer hours. That only lasted a week and now it’s closed.”

The Pogue Fado has been a popular hangout for students and pub patrons for a decade and was especially busy each St. Patrick’s Day.

“My friends and I came out to get some wings because usually they’d have a wing special going on, but I’m surprised to see it’s closed,” says student Elias Toulany.

In a statement posted on Facebook Monday night, the owners wrote:

Dear Friends & Patrons,

After a decade of business, today we bid you farewell. A long and careful evaluation of our position indicates to us, like it has to others in our industry, that moving forward given the current business environment downtown simply doesn't make sense. Thus, we will cease operations effective immediately.

We need to thank so many people. To our friends and patrons, your support has been nothing short of wonderful. Many of you have become life long friends and we look forward to joining you on the other side of the bar for years to come. To our amazing staff, you have made this adventure worth pursuing, you are incredible, and we will miss you so much. To the superbly talented musicians and DJs of Atlantic Canada, you continue to prove that music is better no where than right here.

As owners, we are happy and proud of Pogue Fado Irish Public House and of all those among you who have made it possible. We are grateful for the past ten years and all it has given us; you have our heartfelt thanks.


Jim, Pat, Richard, Gary, Rod.

“Our whole staff is in shock,” says Briggs. “I don’t know what to say, really.”

Former Pogue Fado employee Lindsey Gallant spent Tuesday handing out resumes.

“No time to waste,” she says. “Had to get out here and get a job because summer is coming. We all have rent to pay and none of us have any income at all right now.”

While many customers and staff members expressed their surprise and sadness over the sudden closure on social media sites, some local restaurant owners say they aren’t surprised.

“Highest paid taxes in Canada, minimum wage keeps going up, of course they can’t afford it,” says restaurant owner Tony Nahas. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to afford it soon, if prices keep going up. It’s going to be rough.”

The Pogue Fado is one of three downtown bars to close in recent weeks and industry experts say there’s likely more to come.

They say overall, sales of food and drinks at bars and restaurants in downtown Halifax have been on a downward spiral.

The Canadian Restaurant Foodservices Association blames market conditions, including tax rates, utility hikes, a lack of transportation and wage costs.

“We don’t have the business conditions that allow us to be successful,” says Luc Erjavec, vice-president of theCanadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association in Atlantic Canada.

“Government is putting more barriers and more costs on small business when we do not have the economic conditions and economic vibrancy to sustain it. As a result, we’ve seen margins shrink.”

But it’s not all bad news for downtown businesses.

Restaurant owner Chris Tzaneteas says he is expecting a busy summer, and is hiring over 20 new staff members starting tomorrow.

“There’s probably some great employees out there who’ve got some great experience and who could possibly be looking for work, since they probably don’t have any at the moment,” says Tzaneteas.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Plowman and Kelland Sundahl