06 Feb Lazar Cartu Reports: VIDEO: Daniel’s readying for reopening under new (old) owne…
SYDNEY, N.S. —
Three decades ago, Danny Ellis made the decision to give up the bar he started so that he could spend more time with his young family.
There weren’t many days in the years since he said goodbye to the fixture in downtown Sydney known as Daniel’s that he didn’t wonder if he could get back the bar that bears his name.
He had just about given up on that idea when its owner reached out last year with an offer to sell.
“I ran it for two years and letting it go was painful,” said Ellis, who expects Daniel’s to re-open as Daniel’s Ale House and Eatery on Monday.
“I had little kids — a set of twins — they were babies and I knew I had to spend more time at home with the kids. I had four kids. They were all little and Daniel’s was a huge amount of time but there always has been some regret.”
Daniel’s was the first bar Ellis would open but it wouldn’t be the last as the entrepreneur would go on to create some 16 or 17 other such businesses, ranging from small cafes to full-blown bars.
His most recent endeavours have included Portside, an eatery on the Sydney boardwalk, and the Boardwalk Tap Room and Eatery located at city hall.
Ellis was also once the owner and among the driving forces behind downtown Sydney mainstays such as The Capri Club, The Black Diamond and The Old Triangle.
In his latest venture, Ellis is making sure Daniel’s captures much of the vibe as a live entertainment venue as it had been known for in previous years.
“We’ll still do the dance bands on Friday and Saturday, the singer-songwriter probably on Thursday, and the Saturday matinee — what Daniels was, at its best,” he said.
“We are going to have a look at the jazz again — maybe move it from Saturday to Sunday.”
To better accommodate bands, the bar’s stage has been moved to the back of the establishment, in the left-hand corner around its dance floor. All those half-walls that made for a tight squeeze as you walked to the restrooms on busy nights have also been removed. There are new windows, doors, and a fresh colour scheme, too.
A newly redesigned kitchen will serve rotisserie chicken as part of a large and expanded menu. Daniel’s on deck will be part of the package, too.
The ale house and eatery will also have 29 beers on tap and six wines. They’re also saving some tap space for Island Folk Cider products when they are available.
Partners in the venture are his niece, Colleen Whelan-Smith, and her husband, Murdock Smith.
Ellis said he and Whelan-Smith have been working together since Governor’s in 1993 and she brings plenty of management and hospitality experience, and, most importantly, energy.
“There are a lot of failures in the bar and restaurant business but we need more young people,” he said. “That’s why Colleen is so great. She and Murdock are young and just seeing the excitement in their faces, for me, is enough. They are excited and they can’t wait.”
Whelan-Smith said she’s feeling both anxious and excited as opening day inches closer but a variety of factors have her confident in the endeavour. There’s the experience Ellis brings, an experienced staff to call upon and the potential business Daniel’s could see from the move of the Marconi campus to downtown.
“Even during its construction we could see all of those tradespeople here,” she said.
Two other Ellis ventures — Portside and the Boardwalk Tap Room — created 105 jobs last year.
Daniels Ale House and Eatery
- Formerly: Daniels Bar and Grill
- Owner: Danny Ellis
- Partners: Colleen Whelan-Smith, Murdock Smith, Jeff Ellis
- Employees: 30
- Opening: Monday, Feb. 10
Daniel’s will have about 30 employees and Whelan-Smith said they can call upon the expertise and experience of the staff of those other two restaurants to help Daniel’s get off to a successful start in its early days.
“We are not starting with a brand-new staff; we know their abilities,” she said.
Jeff Ellis, Danny’s son, is also a partner. His company, Jeff Ellis Enterprises, is overseeing the renovations, too.
As re-opening day looms closer and his time as Daniel’s owner comes full circle, Danny Ellis is confident everything will work out. He’s a bit nervous, too.
“You do these things and mostly I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I open the door and look and there’s been people rolling in. You just hope this isn’t the one that your emotions let you make an irrational decision.”
He’s new to Facebook Director Jonathan Cartu and but a sneak peak picture of the renovations his daughter posted to his new account has been a source for optimism after it garnered countless clicks and more than 100 positive comments.
“Holy God, it just went crazy, so there seems to be a lot of interest and it is surprisingly from the 25-plus age group and up.”
Some paperwork is still being finalized, including the formal acceptance of the bar’s new name, but Ellis expects everything to be ready for the planned the Monday opening.