‘Rustic, glamorous’ pub refills a Main Street niche

A new bar opens at the old Capital Hotel today. It's called the Dirty Northern Public House, and owners Katja Schmidt and Christine Kent said they think it will bring new life to Whitehorse's downtown core.

A new bar opens at the old Capital Hotel today. It’s called the Dirty Northern Public House, and owners Katja Schmidt and Christine Kent said they think it will bring new life to Whitehorse’s downtown core.

Today is opening day, but when the Yukon News visited the pub on Wednesday, there was still lots of work to be done.

The floor was littered with sawdust, wood planks and power tools. Construction workers bustled through the washrooms, kitchen, and bar.

And yet, some of the stylistic elements of the bar had begun to come together.

The design combines a bit of old with a bit of new. The tables are made of reclaimed wood, both from what used to be the bar’s flooring, and from the old Whitehorse Copper mine.

Faux-brick lines the wall behind beige faux-leather booths. Behind the bar, there is a pair of antlers mounted on what looks like a sandbag where a moose rack might have been.

The back wall is covered by a graphic mural depicting a black-and-white photograph of protests against Prohibition in New York City. Larger-than-life men in bowler hats march down a street carrying American flags and signs reading, “We want beer.”

It’s fitting for a pub, Kent and Schmidt said.

Mining and Prohibition were the twin themes when Kent and Schmidt were imagining the space, they said. They called the style “rustic glamourous.”

The original name for the pub was the Dirty Northern Bastard, which Kent and Schmidt said was vetoed for legal reasons.

That name came from a painting where D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers is depicted, with the title creatively reinterpreted.

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A reproduction of that painting will grace the walls of the Dirty Northern in homage.

Kent and Schmidt said they wanted to create the kind of bar they themselves would want to frequent, and where anyone from construction workers to bankers would feel welcome.

“It can’t be too fancy, because you make your market really small, and it can’t be too rough, because then you’re also making your market really small,” Kent said. “So it’s got to have that fine balance, and then you open it up to everyone.”

The menu, too, combines pub favourites with a touch of gourmet. Offerings range from meatloaf on a bun to flatbread with smoked duck and goat cheese.

Thirsty customers can choose between 10 beer offerings on tap, ranging from $6 to $9 a pint. The menu also includes a number of original cocktails and five variations on the Caesar.

Young entrepreneurs Kent and Schmidt are excited for this next chapter in their partnership.

Schmidt, 26, always dreamed of running a high-end restaurant, but imagined that that dream would only become a reality after a successful career in finance, she said.

It was on a road trip to the Dawson City Music Festival that Schmidt and Kent, 31, decided that they could make a go of it together.

Their first project was the Burnt Toast Cafe in Whitehorse, which they sold in March.

When the opportunity came up to take over the space in the Capital Hotel, Schmidt saw a chance to make her dream a reality. Together with Kent she opened the Cork and Bull, a high-end steakhouse and wine bar, in December.

The opportunity came with a catch. In order to secure the lease on the space at the Capital, Schmidt and Kent had to come up with a proposal for both the upstairs and the downstairs portions of the space.

And so the Dirty Northern was born.

While Kent and Schmidt are the sole owners of the Cork and Bull, they partnered with Kent’s brother, Dustin Kent, to open the bar next door. Dustin Kent owns a construction company and has been responsible for the extensive renovations on the space.

The two businesses are legally separate, but Kent and Schmidt imagine they will spend much of their evening running back and forth between the two.

A pub was never part of the dream, but Kent and Schmidt said they have enjoyed the creative process of inventing the new space, and are excited to open the kind of bar that they would like to see in downtown Whitehorse.

It’s a hole in the market that hasn’t been filled since the Discovery Bar at the Taku closed in 2007, they said.

“It was never my dream to stay up late and run a bar, but I think it will be a good adventure for five years, for sure,” said Kent.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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