Monday, June 24, 2024

Saint Franks’ eviction prompts ‘copy and pasting’ their hot dog dive on Yates Street


Victoria’s iconic Broad Street hot dog dive bar has gotten the boot — along with all the other businesses in the historic Duck’s Building to make way for a hotel owned by UVic.  

Their last service will take place this Saturday, April 29th, but that isn’t the end of the road for the fire and pandemic hardened restaurant — they’ve secured a new location at 727 Yates Street, in which they’ve tried their best to replicate the current layout with.

Saint Franks was started by two savvy Victoria businessmen, Jay Pincombe, who is the restaurateur who first opened Wheelies Motorcycles, along with Matty Conrad, owner of Victory Barber. 

Saint Franks origin story

Pincombe and Conrad teamed up in 2015 to open a spot that reminded them of New York dives and iconic bars that could serve more than one purpose throughout North America.

“We wanted to create something that was like a lot of the dive bars we liked to frequent,” Pincombe told Victoria Buzz. 

“One of the places in Seattle, it’s called Shorty’s, was a really big one, because when we first opened we had pinball games and we tried to do all this other stuff but the Liquor Board quickly said, ‘that’s not happening’. So we had to make a pivot and that’s when we brought in the video games as tables.”

Once Saint Franks’ doors were almost open, Matty got the ball rolling on opening the barber shop within the restaurant.

“For the first five hours on the first night, we stared at the front door,” Pincombe recalled. “We looked at each other and thought, ‘holy crap we made a huge mistake,’ because not one person came in.”

“Here we are eight years later,” he laughed.

Sayonara Broad Street!

Conrad and Pincombe knew the day they signed the lease on Saint Franks Broad Street location that their days were numbered. 

Back in 2015, the UVic owned Duck’s Building was planning on a massive overhaul to make the building fit for student housing, so there was always a clause in the lease that when they said it was time to leave, their tenants would have to do so. 

“One thing we couldn’t survive is progress,” Pincombe explained. 

“We survived a major fire back in 2017 that set us back six months, we survived a global pandemic that set us back two years. Now the building is being demolished and there’s not much we can do about that one.”

“We always think that’s funny,” he added. 

In 2021, the duo behind the hot dogs and fresh cuts set out to find a new home for their dive and stumbled upon a space on Yates Street.

The space was a blank canvas that happened to be about the exact same dimensions as their Broad Street location. Pincombe and Conrad thought it was the perfect solution to their eventual eviction, so they snagged the space at 727 Yates Street and got to work on making it their new home. 

Before construction began on the new Saint Franks location (Photo by: Jay Pincombe)

“There wasn’t walls, there was no roof, it was a gravel and tar floor and here we are a year and a half later and it looks nearly identical,” said Pincombe.

“The space, if you look at it from above, you can copy and paste the floor plan. We’re making a couple little changes, but it’s pretty much the exact same.”

One such improvement they’re making while they get things ready to go on Yates Street are a bit of a kitchen and storage expansion, which will ultimately allow them to expand on their menu.

“For the most part it’s going to be the same dump that everybody has been somehow coming to for the last eight years,” Pincombe laughed. 

Slinging dogs from Yates Street

Construction is almost finished on the new and improved Saint Franks and as the paint dries, Pincombe and Conrad have been busy getting their various restaurant permits sorted out and putting the finishing touches on everything.

Pincombe predicts a mid-June grand reopening at their new spot and hopes once they’re able to open, all of their staff will be able to come along with them. 

“The staff we have, I mean, we’ve said this a million times, Matty and I, but without that vibe, it’s just like any other crappy place with bad service,” Pincombe told Victoria Buzz. 

“We’ve been really fortunate to get the right people.”

Pincombe says there is nothing but excitement that they aren’t closing for good due to the eviction. He and Conrad are excited if nothing else to have a location that has a bit more foot traffic, being right on an arterial road. 

“We’ve never had ‘curb appeal’ because we’re on a weird side-street downtown, so being on a main street like Yates is going to bring some new eyes to us and that’ll be really interesting,” Pincombe said. 

The two, who are responsible for serving some of the best hot dogs in Victoria, want to assure their customers that everything they love about Saint Franks will be exactly how they like it at the new spot and things can only get better for the business and their patrons. 

“The new spot is going to be the old spot in a new spot in a new space, but it’s the old space in a new space,” Pincombe laughed. “This is no reboot.”

Saint Franks’ last service will be on April 29th until they open up in their new home sometime in mid-June.

Curtis Blandy

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