Hillbilly Highway – The Rose n’ Bee Pub opens its doors

by Sheldon Birnie

A favourite Sherbrook Street watering hole will be opening its door again tonight, under new ownership and a new banner. Formerly the Standard Tavern – itself formerly Hooligans, etc – the new Rose n’ Bee Pub is promising to *ahem* “raise the standard of service and expectations” for the iconic West Broadway live music venue. Matthew and Michael Rosenby, brothers and co-owners, took time out of their busy renovating schedule last night to give Stylus the lowdown on their new enterprise.

“We being owners are going to be owner-operators,” says Michael Rosenby. “We’re going to be hands on. We’re going to make sure that what we have the first day, the second day, is going to be consistent whenever you come in here.”

With a renovated and remodeled interior, a revamped menu featuring Caribbean dishes alongside classic pub fare like fish & chips, and a expanded selection at the bar, including top shelf selections for all liquors as well as six micro-brews on tap (three from Half Pints, two from Vancouver’s Granville Island Brewery, and one from Ontario’s Creemore Springs Brewery), patrons will likely be pleasantly surprised when they stumble through the doors. And of course, the music will be first and foremost.

“This is a live music venue,” says Matthew Rosenby, who had been booking bands at the Standard for a long time. “We are losing a few in the city, from the sounds of it. So we’re trying to keep that alive. This pub is all about the booze and the bands. We’re going back to the roots. Roots music. That means country, folk, and rock. That’s what we really want. That’s our demographic.”

Keeping a strong tradition of roots music in the city as their focus, the brothers Rosenby are not averse to booking occasional punk, metal, or even hip hop shows.

“But [roots] is the soul of this place,” admits Matthew.

“What it comes down to is we’re a whisky, beer, and live music venue,” says Michael.

To better facilitate the live music aspect, the Rosenbys have invested in something that any musician who’s played the Standard for years has been pining for: a new sound system. With the help of Andrew Neville, the boys had just purchased their new system when I got a tour of the place. If you thought Wednesday nights were loud and rowdy before, you better hike up those britches.

That’s right, folks, Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices will continue their reign on Wednesday nights at 61 Sherbrooke Street, a title they’ve held through three ownership changes. When I spoke with Andrew Saturday night, he seemed very optimistic about the new direction the Rosenbys were taking the place, so much so that he’s even been helping the boys with some of the renovations.

Apart from the Poor Choices’ regular Wednesday gigs, the Rosenby will also be offering local, and touring, acts with spots on the stage Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights ever week. The first Saturday of each month will be hosted by the No Label Collective (ed. note: see our Aug/September edition for a profile of the collective!), starting this Saturday with a gig from Ex Modern Teen and Kato Destroy. For roots bands rolling down the Hillbilly Highway through the Heart of the Continent, I’m sure they’ll find some fine comfort and shelter from any passing storm at the Rose N Bee Pub, and the place is a great venue for established and emerging local acts. And I’m sure it’ll be a good place to just sit down and sip on a beer or three, too.

The fun all starts tonight, friends, with Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices hosting the Grand Opening. Tomorrow, Thursday August 2nd, the JD Edwards Band is playing all night long, followed by the Bokononists Friday, and the No Label night on Saturday. Get on down to Sherbrooke Street and see for yourself the good things going down. Party on, pals!

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