• Downtown Duncan

Like A Fine Wine Or A Good Book

I am a server at the Old Firehouse Wine & Cocktail Bar, and I have been asked to reflect on the last nine months. As I try to sum up a subject that means so much to me, words fall short. I am blessed to call the Old Firehouse Wine & Cocktail Bar a “job” but I am also a part of the Old Firehouse family.

Located in the heart of downtown Duncan, the Old Firehouse is a place to gather, eat great food, drink amazing hand-crafted beverages, be greeted and treated by a staff that cares, and converse with an owner who is a rare gem. That owner, Jeff Downie, has been in that space for over 25 years, first as a bookseller and now as a mixologist.

Mostly though, Jeff is my friend and a friend to many.

I have known Jeff for a long time. We connected at the Wine Bar, like many do, talking to their bartender. I was going through a tough time and would go in to see Jeff, not to drink and drown my sorrows, but in order not to. The Old Firehouse was a safe place where I could talk and not feel pressured, where I was listened to. That is the kind of glue that bonds people with this place. It is a reflection of the kind of person Jeff is.

I soon became an employee. The Wine Bar attracts loyal, caring staff, who want to work for Jeff. I have seen this place grow, change, and become the epicentre of food, drinks, and hospitality in the Valley. A vibrant late-night culture where all gathered. Duncan’s late-night culture changed with the Old Firehouse, moving past the stigma it held onto for a long time. You experienced uniqueness - be it a hand-crafted cocktail, amazing food, live music, dancing, karaoke, a patio, or Jeff’s friendly face, we had something for you.

Then, COVID.

I was asked to write about the impact COVID has had, but I cannot tell that story without the positive back story. COVID has affected the hospitality industry substantially. The pandemic has changed how we run and has made us reinvent ourselves. During lockdown we offered takeout, and since reopening, we have kept it vibrant. We lost our bar, lost some tables, but we carry on. We extended our patio to the city square this summer which was a saviour - a safely distanced area with some musical entertainment, which we hope to continue post-COVID.

Late nights are no longer, but we still offer a great night. A safe, comfy place to take someone special for a treat for all the senses. We offer great service, smiles under the masks, and dedication to the industry and our downtown Duncan. Those that work here care about Jeff and his dedication to it all. That’s why we are here, why we stay.

In challenging times it is important to come together and support one another. This Christmas season will be challenging for us without the holiday functions, so we need you Cowichan.

Give the gift of the Firehouse experience. It is important to support local establishments or we will lose them. I encourage you to visit and be greeted with warm smiling eyes. We are here for you like always.

- Mario Peruzzo

The Old Firehouse

Wine & Cocktail Bar

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