Jeff McLatchy’s first job was working as a part-time bar boy in an Irish pub when he was 15 years old. The co-owner of Celtic Corner Public House in downtown Dartmouth spent his formative years in Ireland. His family moved there from Canada when he was small, to accommodate his father’s work as a mining Engineer. In the town of Navan, McLatchy fondly remembers the “local”, Smiths, as a place where his community gathered.
Jeff McLatchy shared this photo of his rugby team at Wesley College in Dublin. He is 11 years old (centre right). The boy beside him (centre left) is Richard Fewell, one of the owners of Bar Stillwell in Halifax.
“In Ireland, you might have someone over for tea, but the pub was where you’d go out with your friends & family,” says McLatchy.
Outside of work and school, McLatchy spent a lot of time on the rugby pitch until he graduated from secondary school. In 1981, he moved back to Canada to study History and English at Mount Allison University. Both of his parents had degrees from the same institution. After graduation, McLatchy moved to Halifax to pursue further studies at Dalhousie, all the while playing rugby and working in hospitality.
“I met so many good people that way! I even met my wife Peggy at a restaurant! We were both working at McKelvie’s in Halifax the late 80s. Her dad was the chef.”
McLatchy began working as a communications expert and journalist. By day, he would write about food and drink for local magazines, by night he worked in local restaurants and pubs and in particular, The Old Triangle. It was a life he loved very much and led him to the conclusion that he wanted to open his own establishment.
“I was always looking around; I knew a lot of people from Dartmouth. I knew there wasn’t anything in Dartmouth like what I had in mind – an upscale pub offering good food, music, a gathering place.”
McLatchy caught wind of an historic building on Alderney Drive in Dartmouth that was originally an old bank. The space had been converted into a bar and restaurant with a kitchen but had been vacant for some time when McLatchy checked it out the first time.
“I literally did the iconic clearing of a spot in the dusty window and peered in. I saw the brick walls, the ornate ceiling, the dark wood pillars. And I closed my eyes and I thought I could make this into my local, my “Smiths” and share it with the Dartmouth community”.
When McLatchy inquired about renting the space, he found out there was a young chef named Mike Hubley competing against him for the location. The two agreed to meet, and it turned out they shared a similar vision.
Celtic Corner Public House co-owners Jeff McLatchy (left) and Mike Hubley (right) take a break during renovations of 69 Alderney Drive in 2005.
“Mike wanted to do something pub-like with good food and I wanted a pub with warmth and a sense of community. So, we thought we could make both of our dreams come true and the rest is history.”
In 2005, Celtic Corner opened at 69 Alderney Drive and soon attracted a loyal following for its atmosphere and food. Since then, McLatchy has installed a cozy pellet stove and an harbour view rooftop patio. He also expanded both the kitchen and dining room space to keep up with customer demand.
“We blasted through two exterior walls to create the ram’s head event room. I think every 40th birthday that ever happened in Dartmouth has been celebrated there!”
McLatchy says he hopes to further expand the pub’s capacity. As soon as weather permits, crews will start working on upgrades to the rooftop patio.
“I can’t wait to add another staircase to make our rooftop more accessible, and hopefully a nice little patio in the park beside us, where folks can enjoy the street experience.”
McLatchy says there’s a palpable energy on the streets of downtown Dartmouth these days. Things were much different when he opened Celtic Corner a decade and a half ago. To help fuel the revitalization, McLatchy volunteered on the board of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission for a number of years. He says it’s rewarding to be a part of the change.
“Celtic Corner has become an integral part of the fabric of the community. It’s great to see so much Dartmouth pride on display. It shows on our local t-shirts and there are flags everywhere these days.”
Celtic Corner's rooftop patio will be made more accessible this spring with a new staircase. A second street-level patio is also planned for construction in Joe Howe Park.
Story by Crystal Garrett
Portrait photo by James MacLean