Nfld. & Labrador

Closure of Brigus's E&E Drive In bittersweet for owners and community

Co-owner Tony Green announced earlier this month the restaurant would close its doors on Friday, a decision driven by an inability to hire staff and the owners' desire to spend more time with family.

Closure fueled by inability to hire full-time staff

Last call for family restaurant with the “best chicken around the bay”

3 months ago
Duration 4:48
E & E Drive-In has been a landmark in the town of Brigus for 54 years. Crowds still line-up for their chicken, yet the restaurant is being forced to close. The family behind the business say it’s not for lack of customers, but for lack of staff.

As the waiting time to get into E&E Drive In in Brigus stretches into hours, co-owner Tony Green says it's hard to believe the restaurant is in its final days of business.

E&E has been a staple of the region since Green's father Ernest opened it with his wife in 1968. The restaurant is widely known for its fried goods, including chicken and onion rings, and its milkshakes.

Green announced earlier this month the restaurant would close its doors on Thursday, a decision driven by an inability to hire full-time staff and the owners' desire to spend more time with family.

Closing the restaurant is a hard thing to do, Green said.

"It's not something that you want to be doing," he said Thursday.

"In the past few years, we've lived here 12, 14 hours a day every single day.… We've missed a lot of family stuff with our kids and our spouses. People don't realize that side of the business is what really hurts."

WATCH ABOVE | The CBC's Zach Goudie visits E&E Drive In as they prepare to close their doors after 54 years

A man stands in an industrial kitchen. He wears a black baseball cap that reads "E&E Drive In."
Tony Green, E&E Drive co-owner, says it was a difficult decision to close a business that's still going strong in the community. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Green has been involved in the business since he was a child picking up garbage in the parking lot. As he and his brother, Ernie, grew older and started to take over more of the business from their parents, they put countless hours in to making it a success.

Now, as they prepare to close the doors, the support from the community shows their work paid off, he said.

"It's kind of overwhelming," he said.

"We really thought when we announced that we were closing that we would be a little bit busier than we were, but not this. We didn't really think that this was going to happen. It kind of makes you feel really good. It's a wowing experience for us."

Customers formed long lines outside E&E this week to get one last feed before the restaurant closes down. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Joanne and Phyllis Whalen waited for more than an hour to get into the restaurant, prepared with packed lunch to eat while they were waiting to order onion rings.

One catch: the onion rings are going straight into the freezer for when their families return from the mainland.

"Our children live away and need a last feed of Ernie's onion rings," Phyllis said.

"I've taken it vacuum-sealed to various parts of Canada in our lifetime," Joanne added. "Children have grown up with it all their life. They've always had it, and part of coming home is getting Ernie Green's."

Closure is 'hard to wrap your head around': Green

Tony Green says he's heard many stories like that since the announcement they were closing, as many in the community included the restaurant in local traditions like watching hockey games or visiting the Brigus Blueberry Festival.

"We've had people come on their first dates and then come on their wedding day to stop in and get their feed of onion rings," he said. "It's a humbling experience to say the least."

E&E Drive In is closing Thursday, 54 years after it opened in Brigus in 1968. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

But as time went on, and the ability to find staff got harder and harder, the family decided they couldn't keep going at their current pace.

"It's hard to wrap your head around it. It's hard to believe that we have to shut down a business that actually works," Green said.

"We're not closing because we're not slow or there's no business; it's quite the opposite. We're closing 'cause it's always busy, and we got no staff to run it with us."

It's also emotional for Ernie's daughter Kerstin Green, who has been working at the restaurant to support the family business.

"I've had people crying.… A lot of people are getting very emotional about it," she said. "I'm glad they are, it shows how dedicated a customer they are. It's a bit emotional. It's hard to see it all close down."

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