A Glass Half Full
By Bret Snider
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the way we interact with others has changed dramatically. It has become our collective preoccupation and the focus of several of my articles. The first was about working from home. The second dealt with the impact on municipal budgets and the services they deliver. The third dealt with the way a long-established family business has adjusted over the years to thrive and how the pandemic has meant doing things differently to survive again. This article focuses on a local entrepreneur who has turned the pandemic into an opportunity.
I first met Babu at the Cathedral Bluffs Yacht Club about twelve years ago. He was introduced to me as the chef. At the time, the fare at CBYC could have been characterized as “Pub Grub” – deep fried everything. Ernie was the front of house guy and everyone assumed he was the main principal of JEB Catering, the concession company that ran the kitchen, bar, dining room and patio. However, over time people came to realize it was really Babu who was the main player.
Shortly after that initial period Babu decided to attend George Brown College’s culinary program. The quality of food being offered at the yacht club improved dramatically. Friday night fine dining took off and became a by-reservation affair – if you wanted a table. A new Board of Directors resulted in a number of changes at the Yacht Club that were not universally embraced by members, guests or staff so Babu decided to focus more of his attention on another JEB Catering business – The Korner Pub, located in Cliffcrest Plaza.
He shifted gears and started spending his time and energy there. His first change was a new, more creative menu. However, his major priority was to renovate the pub, but he didn’t feel he could close down long enough to achieve his objective. He saw the pandemic as an opportunity to revitalize and renovate the Korner. Not knowing how long the pandemic would last and the fact that he couldn’t predict when the Provincial Government would lift the opening ban convinced him to get it done as quickly as possible.
He enlisted some patrons and staff to help him get the new look that he wanted. Steve Storr, a carpenter by trade and his friend Billy Brabant did much of the millwork. Bob McCullough, former CBYC Vice Commodore refurbished the booths, the bar stools and anything else that needed fixing. Said Bob, “Babu’s a nice guy and a friend and I wanted to help.” Korner Manager Jenn MacNeal and her husband Dave both also did whatever was needed to get the place in shape. Says Babu, “I wanted to bring in people that I knew and trusted from the community. They have been good to me over the years and I wanted to give something back.”
The newest feature is a significantly expanded bar. Babu believes that in a pub atmosphere most people want to sit at the bar and felt the old one was just too small. In addition to the bar, he and his team also added new flooring, reorganized the fridges and beer tap lines, improved the lighting, renovated furniture, and applied a few fresh coats of paint.
He is now also back running the restaurant and bar at CBYC and offering take-out at both venues. The Korner’s patio is open for service but can only accommodate 6 guests at a time. Babu plans the grand re-opening of the Korner Pub as soon as the government lifts the ban and it is safe to serve patrons again. Clearly entrepreneurs make their own opportunities and have a glass half-full perspective.