Nfld. & Labrador

No drugs, no customers, says Corner Brook bar owner

Owners and staff of a Corner Brook bar are doing their best to make it drug-free, but the change has affected the bottom line.

Starling's Bar is losing business since cleaning up its reputation

D.D. Starling is the owner of Starling's Bar in Corner Brook. She's recently cleaned up the bar and is taking a no drugs stance at her establishment. (Gary Moore/CBC)

A Corner Brook bar that's trying to clean up its reputation has taken a hit to its bottom line.

The location, in a building on Main Street, has been leased out over the years and became a stomping grounds for drugs and drug users.

The owner of the building, D.D. Starling, said she decided last year to take back the space and open her own bar — Starling's — but cleaning up the site's reputation hasn't been easy or good for business.

When Starling first opened her club, just over a year ago, she was overwhelmed with what she was seeing there.

"I would come to the bar and I would always feel anxious because you just don't know what's going to happen," Starling told CBC News.

A glimpse of some of the renovations done inside Starling's Bar. Owner D.D. Starling hopes customers will feel safe in the recently cleaned-up bar. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Starling said the amount of drugs in the city on Newfoundland's west coast is alarming.  

"The most thing that you see is cocaine … and it's very easily and readily available," she said.

"I've seen ecstasy, I've seen crack, I've seen needles and spoons, I've seen all the paraphernalia that goes along with drugs." 

Safety concerns 

Starling says she doesn't judge what people do but she's concerned about the safety of her staff and customers. 

"My biggest fear is somebody's going to get hurt." 

If you walk inside the bar today, it's hard to imagine such worry. The inside has been fully renovated and modernized with comfortable black leather seats and walls decorated with colourful local art. It looks like it could be a cocktail bar. 

I am scared to death that somebody is going to die in my bar from doing fentanyl.- D.D. Starling

Starling hoped to attract new customers through the remodel, and she has taken steps to keep drugs from coming into the bar.

She said the tipping point was when fentanyl hit the streets. 

"I am scared to death that somebody is going to die in my bar from doing fentanyl," she said.

"It's going to be mixed in with other drugs, and I don't think people are even going to know what they are doing."

Starling figured it was only a matter of time before the drug landed at her bar — which prompted her to cut ties with any customers who are known drug users or dealers. 

"It's illegal, number one, right? Which everybody seems to forget. But, we just don't want to have that in the bar."

Business is down since

Starling said since she's made the choice to clean up the bar, business is down, and it's been a struggle to keep things going.

"We've driven away a lot of customers. And, it's been hard. Financially it's been very difficult."

D.D. Starling is hoping her firm stance against drugs will help bring in new customers to her bar. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Starling said the only saving grace is that she owns the building. 

"If I had to pay rent, I don't know how we would survive."

Starling is not backing down, though, and she's committed to investing the time and energy it's going to take to get a new identity and new customers through the doors.

"Hopefully people will come here and feel safe to be here."

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore recently moved from Corner Brook, NL to join the CBC team in Fredericton. He's an associate producer with Information Morning.