by Doreen Marion Gee
Forging a strong community is a tradition at the Prairie Inn Neighbourhood Pub. The original pioneer builder of the Prairie Inn, Henry Simpson, was a baker, farmer, contractor, hotel owner, mailman, community worker and one of the founders of the Saanich Agricultural Society. His caring community values back in the 1800′s live on in the modern establishment, where being a good neighbour is a top priority. Henry would be proud.
The historical Prairie Inn was at the epicentre of a bustling new community with a general store, post office, and a hack service. Today, it is still one of the busiest corners in Saanichton. Jamie Day, the very personable manager of the Prairie Inn, recalls that the present establishment opened up as a pub and restaurant in 1974, with many renovations over the years. On December 26th, 1974, the Prairie Inn became Vancouver Island’s first neighbourhood pub and in 1983, it was the Island’s only brewery. A very unique feature is the refrigerated underground direct beer link between the brewery and the taps in the pub, the first of its kind in Canada.
At the helm for the past 15 years, Jamie puts a huge emphasis on the “comfort” factor of his patrons: ” ‘Comfortable’ means that my customers can relax and enjoy themselves, feel safe, and not worry about what is going on behind them.” Out of respect for his loyal clientele, Jamie ensures that drinking does not translate into disruptive behavior. He wants everyone to feel comfortable with a new special secluded “family” area for parents and kids to relax. “This has done wonders for our business,” he notes. Seniors’ groups feel totally at home with regular gatherings and repeat business. Customers are like family, and staff know many by name. Jamie values his Kitchen Manager, Liz Lamothe – “She makes the world go round” – and his hard-working Liquor Store Manager, Frank Markovic, servers and staff.
Another priority for Jamie is “consistency:” the same high-quality food, served in a reasonable time frame, done the same way every time. One web review states a whopping 86-percent rate of customer satisfaction. A world traveller gushes: “The double-tuxedo burger at the PI is hands down, without a doubt the finest hamburger that Earth Mother Gaia could possibly offer!” The Prairie Inn offers a wide and delicious menu: salads, burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, steak sandwiches, fish and chips, and dinner specials. “Somebody could come in here and get a cheeseburger, wings and a beer and only pay $10″ says Jamie. “Our quesadillas are legendary.” Last year, the beautiful interior of the Prairie Inn was chosen to be the set for a movie, Poker Night, with Ron Perlman of Hellboyfame. Jamie smiles about the producer’s comment that “Those are the cleanest bathrooms that I have ever been in!”
Being a caring neighbour is very important to Jamie and his staff: “Every month, we do a fundraiser at Prairie Inn to help people out in the community.” They raised $20,000 for parents with a seriously ill son being tested in a Vancouver hospital, “so that their heads were clear and not worried about bills. Our goal was to give them enough money that they didn’t have to worry about ferry costs or the costs of staying in Vancouver.” Another Prairie Inn Fundraiser raised over $7,000 for a staff member having a kidney transplant, so that he didn’t have to worry about loan and car payments or accommodation when he was recovering in Vancouver. “It was all of us here that helped. It was the community that did it!”
As well as excellent food and service, the Prairie Inn brings local people together to help one another. The community-building legacy of the original pioneer lives on at the Prairie Inn Neighbourhood Pub, our good caring neighbour.
Jamie Day wishes to thank all his customers for their patronage. Find the Prairie Inn on Facebook (PrairieInnPub), or call the Pub: 250-652-1575; or Beer & Wine Store: 250-652-2192.