As It Happens

Tiny bird pub in St. John's closes its doors after parasite outbreak

Elling Lien is closing his popular dive bar in St. John's, Newfoundland. It was known as the tiniest pub in the city because its most frequent customers were birds.
It's closing time for Newfoundland and Labrador's smallest pub because of frounce, a deadly bird disease transmitted through bird feeders. (Elling Lien/juncospub.com)
Listen6:04

A popular bar in St. John's, Newfoundland has closed down for good.

Junco's Pub was known as the tiniest pub in the city — because its most frequent customers were birds.

There's a new bar in downtown St. John's that's doing a booming business. It's called Junco's Pub. But not everybody can get in. This one is JUST for the birds 2:11

"It was a tough decision," Elling Lien tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

"I'm the pub's biggest fan but recently, here in Newfoundland, there's been a lot more reports of something called frounce, which is a parasite that affects songbirds."

Lien is the owner and creator of Junco's Pub. He built the unusual bird pub house and outfitted it with all the trappings of a neighbourhood dive bar: wood paneled walls, a beer fridge, a television, bar stools and even a tiny dart board. But the bar snacks — a generous mix of bird seed — are what really attracted the feathered patrons.

"There were regulars that came back everyday just like any other pub — first thing in the morning," Lien quips.

Elling Lien says he spent about a year creating Junco's Pub and setting up the 24-hour live stream online. (CBC)

In 2015, he launched a 24 hour live stream of the pub, which quickly gained a following online. People tuned in to catch a glimpse of the birds "imbibing" and Lien admits, occasionally break into bar room brawls.
"Especially between the Junco's and the Chickadees," Lien explains. "Junco's really hate Chickadees for some reason."

Last spring, Junco's Pub turned into Junco's Nursery when two birds built a nest inside the bar and hatched two chicks.



Lien built relationships with many of the birds and says it's hard to see the pub go. But since bird feeders are hotspots for transmitting the deadly frounce parasite Lien says he doesn't want to risk spreading the disease.

"I really take it seriously," Lien insists. "I really love the birds. I want to help them and this is the way to do it."

This is not, in fact, a giant bird invading a bar. The junco is visiting a miniature pub created by Elling Lien, called Junco's Pub, which is a birdhouse made to look like a Newfoundland pub. (Elling Lien/juncospub.com)

Lien will be hosting a final celebration of Junco's at a human-sized bar on Friday night.

"We are having a karaoke night at one of the local pubs because occasionally we streamed karaoke in the little television in the bar!"

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