Daniel Cook operates Donegal’s Rock & Irish House on 96th Avenue in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Insurance ‘shock’ for B.C. pub operator who found a way to reopen after COVID shutdown

‘It’s not just us, it’s happening to other bar owners,’ says Donegal’s operator Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook says it’s a happy ending for him and his staff, now that his Surrey-area pub is set to reopen after an insurance-costs crisis nearly forced the place to close forever.

The doors to his Donegal’s Rock & Irish House will reopen at noon Wednesday (June 24) following a nerve-racking three months of COVID-related shutdown.

The mid-spring timing of a liability-insurance renewal was also cause for stress for him and his bar staff.

“Some of the insurance companies wanted 10 times what my rate was last year,” said Cook, who has operated Donegal’s for close to 14 years.

“It’s not just us, it’s happening to other bar owners,” Cook added. “It’s just one more thing, because we’ve been closed for several months, we’re coming back in a down market at half capacity because of physical distancing, and we won’t be doing near the volume we were doing before. Our insurance rates were already high, and now it’s going up significantly. It’s a double whammy.”

Cook has chronicled his plight in Facebook posts, including some good news on Friday (June 19): A reasonable insurance rate had been secured for the bar to reopen.

“My new rate is triple last year’s,” Cook told the Now-Leader. “It’s going to be painful but it was literally the only other option I had, so it was that or close.”

An earlier quote was for $70,000, Cook said, with a $10,000 deductible for a claim.

“I’ve heard of one bar owner getting a quote of $100,000,” Cook said, “and another, the rate went from $20,000 to $60,000 for a year.

“It was all a shock to me, how much insurance costs had risen,” he added. “It used to be a soft market with lots of vendors, lots of competition for insurance business, but then in 2018 the market shifted and they were getting tight about who they were looking at. There’s a much smaller market for insurance companies that will even touch hospitality, and most of them won’t do bars and pubs. It’s a huge issue, and it started becoming an issue even before COVID.”

• RELATED STORY: Surrey pub brings bands back as Dr. Henry warns about how singing can spread COVID-19.

Meantime, some Donegal’s regulars launched an online campaign to raise $50,000 to help Cook pay mounting bills.

“Donegal’s has given so much to this community, and to live music, we wanted to try to help them to be able to reopen, and continue that work,” says a post on gofundme.com.

• ALSO READ: ‘Freakrock’ jammers find groove among the faithful at Surrey pub

Surrey pub ‘instantly recognizable’ in new Schwarzenegger movie

During the pandemic-related shutdown since mid-March, Cook went to work on renovations at Donegal’s, including polishing brass, new paint, lighting upgrades and some new washroom stalls.

For now, the pub operates with limited hours and plans to reintroduce live music at a later date.

“We will be working with local health officers, our staff, and some trusted musicians to formulate a plan, and to make sure that when we do (bring back live music), we can ensure that it is done right,” Cook said on Facebook.

“Yes, I’m anxious to start getting those sales up, it’s been three months of no income, and the natural inclination is to ramp up business as fast as we can,” Cook added. “But I believe that to be shortsighted, and potentially harmful. We will not be responsible for taking risks that could cause an outbreak just to make a few bucks; the lives of our community mean more than that, we will find a way to do it better.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Cariboo North MLA ‘deeply disappointed’ in early election call

Coralee Oakes says there has been unprecedented co-operation in Victoria during the pandemic

Quesnel RCMP respond to three gun-related calls, including drive-by shooting, in five days

Sgt. Richard Weseen says the Quesnel RCMP has seized more than 17 firearms in the month of September

Williams Lake First Nation inks historic cannabis deal with B.C. government

The agreement paves the way for WLFN to sell cannabis to the government, and open stores across B.C.

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

RCMP issue two $2,300 COVID fines at same Metro Vancouver vacation rental within 24 hours

Cpl. Mike Kalanj said it was ‘quite frankly appalling’ to see parties breaking COVID-19 rules

Here’s how voting amid a pandemic will happen in B.C.

Elections BC has worked with the provincial health office to determine safety protocols for voting

B.C. privacy commissioner will hear First Nations complaints about COVID

The hearing will rely on written submissions from the Indigenous governments as well as the Ministry of Health

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says

While toilet paper consumption has returned to normal levels, paper towel sales continue to outpace pre-COVID levels

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Most Read