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FAVOURITE STORIES OF 2023: Queen's Head pub forced to close

As we get ready for a New Year, BurlingtonToday takes another look at the top-read community stories of 2023

“For 19-plus years we had a good relationship with the (building) landlord,” said Ed Catley, the person behind the Queen’s Head Pub on Brant Street. “At least I thought we did. I didn’t see any reason to believe I was not going to be offered a new lease.”

After an initial discussion about numbers last fall, Catley waited for the paperwork but it never came.

Then, as the lease deadline approached, Catley prompted the owner. He was told that someone else had walked in with an offer that was “really hard to refuse.”

Catley then asked for more details in an effort to prepare a counter offer but was told those documents were being kept confidential, on the advice of the landlord’s lawyers. Still, to this day, he has no idea what is to become of the landmark building that has stood at the corner of Brant and Elgin streets since 1860.

According to the Ontario Business Registry, the property at 400 Brant Street is owned by Sherwood Holdings Inc. of Oakville. Dun & Bradstreet lists the key principal as Derek Concannon.

Attempts to contact Concannon for comment were unsuccessful as of publication.

A statement was uploaded on July 24 to the Queen’s Head Pub social media announcing the closing of the local eatery as of September 16, 2023.

Once Catley knew the lease would not be renewed, he decided to share the news privately with the Queen’s Head staff, several of them being family members, before word got out. “I wanted them to hear my words, not the gossip. To be frank, I cried. I needed to find clarity in my words.”

Perhaps thinking back on other local businesses that have had to wind down like Burlington Taxi in 2021 or Emma’s Back Porch in 2020, Catley observed, “There’s never a good time to give this information to a community, especially a community such as ours in Burlington.”

Saying that he’s not quite ready to retire, Catley thought back on his years at the Queen’s Head, “My job’s better than a real job. I get to socialize, spend time with customers and friends and family.”

While noting that the work is also demanding and time consuming, he feels that there’s a difference between choosing to retire and being forced to.

Catley came to the restaurant industry after years in the manufacturing sector, then a series of enterprises. He bought the Queen’s Head in 2003.

“We worked diligently to build a brand with the help of our staff,” he says. “Pubs are simply meeting places for all, it’s a place for wedding rehearsals, a retirement party, it’s where you tell people you’re getting married or having a baby. It’s not crazy it just kind of stays level.”

Judging by the comments on social media, the Burlington public thought highly of the warm, welcoming atmosphere at the Queen’s Head whether it was to enjoy a meal, watch the World Cup on screen, listen to live music, partake in the weekly trivia night, or to relax on the patio - if you could find a seat, during the
Sound of Music festival or on a warm summer evening.

“You don’t realize the impact you have on the community till such time as you’re no longer there,” Catley said. “It’s heart-warming and overwhelming but at the same time it’s really sad.”

According to a short history on the Queen’s Head website the structure was built in 1860 by The Zimmerman family and known originally as the Zimmerman House, "a first class resting place  for the weary traveller." By the late 1800s it was known as the Queen’s Hotel and in the mid-1900s it was known as the Sherwood, later becoming the Queen’s Head Pub.

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Lawson Hunter

About the Author: Lawson Hunter

Lawson Hunter has been a freelance writer for more than 30 years. His articles on technology, the environment, and business have been published in local and national newspapers, magazines and trade publications
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