Patrons enjoy Nerd Nite at the Rum Runner. - photo courtesy Brent Wettlaufer

Patrons enjoy Nerd Nite at the Rum Runner. – photo courtesy Brent Wettlaufer

Rum Runner Pub’s old management says goodbye

H.G. Watson

The week leading up to March 1 was hard for Liz Howie. But that Saturday — the last Saturday she would oversee a busy night at the Rum Runner Pub in the bottom of the Walper Hotel— had begun to turn around.

“Today I feel pretty good,” she said.

For the last four years, Howie and her husband Darryl have operated the pub that has long been a local hangout for the downtown Kitchener crowd. But a change in the ownership of the Walper Hotel signaled an end of an era for the pair, and they decided they would have to move on.

“When we first were going to close it was devastating,” said Howie. The pub will now be under management of Perimeter Development Corporation David Strucke and CK Atlantis Ltd. — the group that purchased the Walper property last fall — on March 2.

Howie had worked at the Walper for 20 years. Just four years ago, the then owners decided to lease the historic space, named for its role in running alcohol to Chicago and New York during the prohibition years of the twenties — rumours have long persisted that tunnels built for the rum runners exist under the bar, though Howie said she has never seen any evidence of them.

It was the perfect opportunity for Howie and her husband to take over. She wanted to create a comfortable space where people could meet to enjoy good food, drink and company. “I’ve always maintained that it would be more of a Cheers like atmosphere,” she said. “You’re not going to hear the music or TV blasting. It’s about friends getting together to have conversations.”

The Rum Runner is one of the more unique spaces in Waterloo Region. Comprised of several small rooms, the pub had the cozy and chaotic feel of a traditional English pub.

However, now that it has come time to say good-bye, Howie is looking forward.

She’s very close to signing the lease on a new space in downtown Kitchener, and with it she’s decided that she’ll be making some changes. “I plan to tap a market that I think is really needed in the downtown area, which is breakfast.”

Howie said that the new space will be open for breakfast and lunch, and will be open on Sunday’s — welcome news for hungry residents who are starved for options after a Saturday night out.

She is confident her crowd of regulars will follow her, and make a new bar that the can all call home.
Already, she knows that many people have her back.

“It’s been really nice the public support that I have received from the downtown community,” she said. “That’s what keeps us going.”.