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

Chilliwack RCMP seeing surge in telephone-based tax scam

Victims are phoned by someone claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency, demanding money

Chilliwack Chiefs alum Jordan Kawaguchi named captain of North Dakota Fighting Hawks

The high scoring forward will lead UND into the 2020-21 NCAA Div-1 hockey season

Cold and wet weather has corn farmers waiting across the Fraser Valley

Usually the crop is ready July 5-12 but it’s still a few more days from perfection, says local farmer

Missing Richmond man last seen in Chilliwack

Shawn Johnson last seen on June 30 on Main Street

Double homicide investigation leads Vancouver police to Eagle Landing

A VPD forensics unit was in Chilliwack Saturday collecting evidence connected to East Van murders

Sources say Canada, U.S. likely to extend mutual travel ban into late August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility after a phone call with U.S. President

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Professional basketball in Canada begins return to action with COVID-19 testing

Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, six other CEBL teams arrive in Ontario for Summer Series

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Most Read