Union Bay pub re-opens saloon-style

The Highwayman Pub in Union Bay has re-opened for the summer but will shut down come fall for renovations.

The Highwayman Pub in Union Bay is under new ownership.

The Highwayman Pub in Union Bay is under new ownership.

The Highwayman Pub in Union Bay has re-opened for the summer but will shut down come fall for renovations.

New owner Murray Le Sage had shut the doors a couple months back to start the renos before opening on Friday, May 29.

He wants the establishment to have more of an old-fashioned saloon feel with food and plenty of bar stools.

“Less tables, more standup,” he said. “This is Phase One.”

For the second phase, he plans to move the bar and open up a wall so patrons  can enjoy the ocean view.

“This is just a new chapter to an existing old tale,” said Le Sage, who was in the process of purchasing the pub when the previous owner, Lorena Ramsay, passed away. Her husband and pub co-owner Willie Schmidt died earlier in the year.

The Highwayman’s history dates back more than a century — back when Union Bay and Cumberland were dry communities.

“He (Robert Dunsmuir) enforced no booze,” Le Sage said. “So of course those who had booze sold it. They were selling beer for 15 bucks a case back when you could buy an eight-pound roast for three bucks.

“This one (building) was built in ’24 but there was a building before it in the late-1800s. It burned down in ’22…The liquor licence didn’t come until 1911.”

The pub’s original name was the Willis before it became the Islander Hotel and later the Highwayman.

“And before the Willis, a few feet away, was the Wilson, and it burned down too. It was a hotel without a licence. This is back before they had licences.”

Le Sage’s three sons — Brandon, Mitchell and Warren — will help run the bar.

The new kitchen manager is Nina Baker, whose McSwiggins clubhouse sandwich was legendary at the former Courtenay eatery.

She said the pub has a “fantastic menu” that will feature roast and other house specials — and her clubhouse. Most of the food is homemade.

“He’s got such great ideas,” Baker said of Le Sage.