Nfld. & Labrador

Stone Jug restaurant in Carbonear a 'follow your heart project', says owner

After eight years and a lot of government red tape, the Stone Jug restaurant in Carbonear is finally open.
The Stone Jug was built by the Rorke family in the 1800s so the merchant family could trade with other merchants and fishermen in the area. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

After eight years and a lot of government red tape, the Stone Jug restaurant in Carbonear is finally open.

This really was a follow your heart project.- Bruce Branan

The official opening on Wednesday was six months behind schedule, but for successful American businessman and owner Bruce Branan, restoring this historic landmark was somewhat of a passion.

"When I was at university I started buying old antique cars and fixing them up and reselling them … then I got into bigger things and started buying buildings," said Branan.

(Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"It just popped into my head that this was something I wanted — it's just something you feel."

The stone building was built by the Rorke family in the 1800s so they could trade with other merchants and fishermen in the area.

Three floors of the finest woodwork lit by a spectacular collection of chandeliers have given this 155-year-old stone building a new lease on life. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Around ten years ago, while on a trip to Carbonear with a group of Chinese Investors, Branan said the run-down building caught his eye.

Initially, he just fell in love with the building and hadn't planned on turning it into a restaurant.

We did everything that we were told and more.- Bruce Branan

That idea came later, partly because he wanted something the public could enjoy as well.

Branan has restored and re-sold many historic properties over the years, but said this one is a keeper. 

A collection of chandeliers hang throughout the Stone Jug's three floors. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"I saw Carbonear and I saw it as being one of those places that had a lot of potential if people just do the right things here," Branan told CBC's Azzo Rezori.

"This really was a follow your heart project."

The restaurant is complete with a stone oven and wood-fired grill that reminds the chef of cooking around an open fire. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The interior is lit by a spectacular collection of chandeliers which highlight the finest woodwork and detailed furnishings, many which were made under Branan's personal supervision in one of his Chinese plants.

A metal plaque with a skull and cross bones and the name 'Stone Jug' sits mounted on a beam on the building's first floor. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

While renovating the building into the upper-end restaurant may have been a labour of love for Branan, he said it was also an endless fight with government red tape.

He said he understands Newfoundland and Labrador's Service NL Department needed the renovated Stone Jug to be up to code, but said the project was tedious.

A few of the dozens of chandeliers hanging within the Stone Jug. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

"We did everything that we were told and more … [and] put a lot more capital into this than I ever wanted to," said Branan.

"We just felt there needed be a special door for heritage … otherwise people will start these type of projects and they'll run out of money."

A shot across the empty second floor. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

He added that government can say they want to save historic buildings but they need to create a better way for people to do it.

While this wasn't the usual investment for Branan and was much more expensive he is happy to have it completed.

Stone Jug owner Bruce Branan thinks it's time the provincial government found common ground with him to work around the delays in opening his venue. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)
I'm pretty well anchored with this investment and my home … I have lots of friends now, these are the things that are important in life.- Bruce Branan

He has planted some roots in this province and hopes this project will bring new life to the Carbonear area.

"I was hoping that the renovation of this building would not only make this spot better on the street, but that it would have a snowball effect and that all of Water Street would be developed," said Breen

"I'm pretty well anchored with this investment and my home … I have lots of friends now, these are the things that are important in life."

Another shot of the second floor. Note all different chandeliers. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

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