A low-key eve: Saint John readies to ring in 2021

·3 min read

SAINT JOHN • Chris Vair, owner of Big Tide Brewing, remembers New Year's Eve 2019: Diners came in for a meal and then moved on to somewhere else in the city to dance, watch bands on the boardwalk and take in the annual fireworks.

This year, Vair says he's almost glad he isn't a brewery that traditionally offers live music and space to dance because it's unclear what events, if any, should be hosted for New Year's Eve given the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's just one big question mark because no one really knows," he said.

The City of Saint John won't be holding New Year's Eve fireworks, the mayor's annual levee or other events to ring in 2021. Many other municipalities in greater Saint John and Charlotte County won't be hosting events either in light of the pandemic.

"You can't have big celebrations and I don't think anybody would want a big celebration because you would have to control that. That would be probably more trouble than it's worth, I think," said Vair.

Local musician Gary Stackhouse will play O'Leary's Pub on New Year's Eve. Ever since the pandemic struck, he said shows have been different because people can't get up and dance freely with people's movements restricted.

Usually, Stackhouse said, New Year's Eve is a big deal for a musician because that's when everyone goes out to party.

"Hopefully by this time next year, we'll be able to go back to some semblance of normal and have a more traditional New Year's Party," said Stackhouse, who will perform with Aaron Gunn as the band Stackhouse Gunn Project Thursday night.

Their show, in the back room of O'Leary's Pub, starts at 9:30 p.m. and will continue until 1 a.m. Sarah Hanrahan will be playing in the front room at the same time.

Vair said Big Tide Brewing will be serving Chinese food for New Year's Eve and will be closing at 10 p.m. He isn't sure whether his brewery will see more or fewer customers this year, saying it will depend on whether people decide to come out to party and look to grab a meal first.

After Saint John's recent brief move into the orange phase of recovery, O'Leary's Pub owner Kevin Ferguson said the amount of people coming into the pub has decreased even more. Now at the peak times, he said, the establishment is at 25 per cent capacity.

He anticipates New Year's Eve celebrations are "going to be like a weekend night."

O'Leary's Pub will offer music and New Year's Eve-themed party favours Thursday night. A $10 cover will be in place and there will be limited capacity.

Meanwhile, Churchill's Bar and Pub and Church Street Steakhouse in Saint John will be hosting a special New Year's Eve meal featuring a coffee and bourbon steak dinner. Saint John's Fish and Brews Pub will be hosting a karaoke night, according to a social media post.

For those who want to stay in, St. Stephen will be organizing a virtual 150th anniversary kick-off event on Jan. 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on their Facebook page. It will feature musical acts and other entertainment.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. L'initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.

Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal