Reclaiming the old 202

It's an old bar with a new name, but for Debbie Welch, it's opening the taps on a long-held dream. Welch has been working in the hotel and lounge industry of Whitehorse since she arrived here nearly 30 years ago.

It’s an old bar with a new name, but for Debbie Welch, it’s opening the taps on a long-held dream.

Welch has been working in the hotel and lounge industry of Whitehorse since she arrived here nearly 30 years ago.

“I’ve always been interested in doing something on my own,” says the single mom. “I have the experience, and the opportunity finally came up.”

Her career began at what is now the Town & Mountain Hotel on Main Street with then-owner Tippy Mah. Welch eventually moved over to the 202 Motor Inn, following Mah a little after he established the hotel.

“She’s a good friend and she will be great,” says Mah. “She will be a success. I have known her for more than 25 years and she’ll have fun with it.”

Having fun is what makes a bar successful, Mah says. He used to do it himself, but he says he is too old now.

“It’s a young people’s game,” he says.

Welch is taking over the site from Keith Jacobsen, who previously leased it from Mah.

The 25-year-old Jacobsen took over Sam McGee’s Bar and Grill, an old country bar, and turned it into a hot spot for young DJs and dancers.

But after three years, Jacobsen closed the doors this July.

His Coasters sign was taken down and the Sam McGee sign went back up.

Now, that sign will be taken down too.

Jarvis Street Saloon is the new, official name of the bar on the corner of Jarvis Street and Second Avenue.

The saloon’s official grand opening is this weekend. Rock musician Tim Naylor plays Friday night, and Saturday will feature the Yukon African Caribbean Association.

“The challenge is the identity,” says Kerry Thiessen, Welch’s right-hand at the saloon.

Some people haven’t been coming in because they didn’t like Coasters. Others say they don’t want to come in if it’s reverted back to McGee’s, while many people don’t even know it’s open, he says.

“If you look at our grand opening weekend, it’s incredible variety,” he says.

Weekly events haven’t been completely scheduled yet, but Thiessen says there will be some ladies’ nights, men’s nights, pool and crib nights and every Wednesday will be an open jam night with a full band backing.

Getting people back in has been a challenge, says Welch, whose establishment has been open to customers for about a month now.

“I want this to be an everything bar,” she says, unwilling to label it country, rock or anything else in between. “I just want it to be a fun place for people to go.”

Dave Barrett, known as Kokanee Dave, is back.

And so is bartender Grace LaCouvee.

Sitting on the bar stool he says he used to sit in as a regular at McGee’s. With LaCouvee back in her corner of the bar – her workspace for 13 years – the two reminisce about old times.

“Keith (Jacobsen) was young and brought in all the young kids,” she says. “We’re going to get our 202 regulars back. We’re going to get back people that like two-stepping and country. It’s going to be the original 202.”

“I’m glad it’s back to the way it was and all the old people are back together, ‘cause we were all split up,” says Barrett. “It’s like a family brought back together. It’s like it hasn’t changed at all.”

Turning back time and bringing back these people, Barrett says gesturing to LaCouvee and the five other regulars in the otherwise empty bar, is what brought him back.

“After work, you don’t want to hear a bunch of screaming people,” he says about his preference for a quieter space.

It takes time to build a business back, says Carel Alexander, Mah’s business manager. But she is confident it will happen for Jarvis Street Saloon.

Going back in time is a great choice, she says.

“That segment of the market was missing here once the old Sam McGee’s closed down – for the older population who doesn’t want to listen to modern music. People who like country western and old time rock and roll.

“We used to come dancing here all the time. The place used to be packed.”

It will be again, she says.

The 202 is a landmark for downtown, says Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

“Any new business, any business that rejuvenates itself is welcome,” he says. “I don’t see a problem with stepping back in time in terms of decor and theme. A lot of good can come of it. It’s up to the competitive market to decide who stays open and who closes.”

Karp says the chamber’s only real concern is the same they have for all other bars in town: the responsibility of the owners to keep public drinking safe.

“The federal government tells us Yukon consumes a lot of alcohol; it’s a big business,” he says.

Safety isn’t a problem, says LaCouvee. Two doormen from Coasters have stayed on as staff.

The location has always had some problems with destitute people taking refuge inside. It’s still a bit of a problem in the day because the staff are new, she says.

“It doesn’t bother me at night; I can take them,” she says.

LaCouvee has been working in the industry for a little more than 40 years.

The older crowd and community is being embraced by Welch, and they are supporting her right back, she says, gushing about all the support from friends and her son.

“I feel great,” she says. “I love doing this and I am so thankful I have help. They’re coming in and doing this and not expecting anything back. They just want to see me succeed and it’s a great feeling because they’re all behind me.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read