The Morrison Building, which was built around 1869 in Fredericton and withstood generations of change and development, is now a pub.
The new name is O’Hickey’s Irish Pub.
Jason Cooling purchased the building, which carries historical protections and status in Fredericton, and took a careful approach to turn the inside into a place for people to gather and socialize.
He and his wife also share Irish heritage.
Cooling said the whole process took him and his wife about a year.
“We have reclaimed and reused a lot of the original products already here,” he said. “We’ve opened up some things that weren’t seen for years — that being this brick wall, which is the original vault of the Morrison Insurance Company.”
That vault is now being used as the pub’s cooler. Cooling retrofitted the inside of the former vault to keep the kegs cold. Lines running under the floor connect those kegs run to the bar area.
The pub also has an “Irish snug.” In the 19th and 20th centuries, Irish snugs were a part of the bar that allowed anyone to get a drink without being seen or participating in the activities of the pub. There is a small window where the bartender can serve a patron and a door to close to keep things quiet.
Cooling said his biggest challenge during the renovation process was finding materials and labour.
“People-power was hard — hard to get labour, contractors and things like that,” he said. “Materials, I would say, were the hardest to get. We had to wait for a lot of the oak here in the bar.”
By the end of the year, Cooling had a traditional Irish bar with oak counters, Celtic symbols, and soft touches of a building with a new life and purpose.
“For us, it was about a space for people,” Cooling said.
He said he often encourages customers to put their phones away and really engage in conversation and enjoy the environment.
“It’s been absolutely lovely,” he said. “Every day has been packed.”
The bar now stands out with a wall painted a crisp red and an Irish flag out front.
For Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers, it is further proof the growth the city is seeing also includes its business community.
“Especially when it’s a business that uses one of our older buildings and sort of gives it new life, revitalizes, maybe does something new with it,” she said. “I find that extremely exciting when that happens.”
She said it speaks to the confidence business owners and entrepreneurs have in the city.
As for Cooling, he’ll be living out his retirement dream behind the bar.
“We just had a retirement dream and it came to fruition a little early,” he said.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.