Ocracoke Update:  Life without a highway
January 17, 2008


Howard’s Pub, an island institution, takes a well-deserved break

By JAMIE TUNNELL


No matter what day of the year you were on Ocracoke, you could count on one place being open for lunch, dinner, and a little late-night – Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar Restaurant.

It is affectionately called the “Pub” by residents and fans and is widely known for its extensive beer menu, cheeseburgers, and now its mixed drinks.  It was the first restaurant on the island to serve liquor by drink last February after the mixed drink referendum passed in Hyde County.
 
The Pub also gained fame during many hurricanes when it was the only place open in town with a trusty generator and a refrigerator stocked with beverages.

However, on Jan. 2, the Pub closed for renovations and a winter break for the first time since the doors opened in 1991.
 
“We have the chance to work on some major projects and renovations in here for the first time ever,” said Ann Warner, proprietor of Howard’s Pub. “We are redoing the tile floor in the kitchen, working on circuit panels, reworking the HVAC in the dining room, and working on the roof – all projects we can’t do when we’re serving customers.”

Ann Warner and her late husband, Buffy, moved to Ocracoke and opened the Pub in 1991.  Buffy Warner died after a tragic fall on his boat in June, 2004, and Ann has carried on the Pub tradition since then.

Ocracoke suffers from small town syndrome.  Any tidbit can be transformed into a full-fledged rumor and have its flames fanned, especially in the winter. The community’s reaction to this winter’s closing was surprise, but it made sense to close with little traffic from the north. So, here’s the skinny: Howard’s Pub is not closed for good. Howard’s Pub is not for sale. Howard’s Pub will reopen shortly after the northern bridges are declared open.

‘This has been a great time to get organized,” said Lisa Bell, manager. “We’re doing the same things we always do in the slower season, but without the interruptions of business downstairs.”

In the summer months, the waiting line is out the door, and the cars are parked on both sides of the road all the way to the entrance of South Point Road. Warner employs more than 70 part-time and full-time wait staff, managers, cooks, and bartenders in the summer. The Pub has become an island icon that visitors look forward to when they come back year after year.
 
The improvements to the infrastructure of the Pub over the next few months won’t be visible to the patrons on opening day, but will help operations run smoothly on those busiest summer days.

“We don’t have any disgruntled employees over being closed, at least that I know of,” said Ann Warner. “There are some employees who have been here on and off the entire time we’ve been a restaurant, and they were secretly doing a countdown until Jan. 2. They deserve a break.”

As residents and visitors monitor the progress of the beach detour project, they look forward to the warmer months when there will be more choices about where to eat, shop, and hang out. For now, the doors of the Pub are closed. Shortly after the bridge construction project is finished and Highway 12 is re-opened, Warner plans to be back in business.

“We have always prided ourselves on being open 365 days a year, even Christmas, even Thanksgiving, even during hurricanes,” said Warner. “But it’s okay. Change is okay.”

Howard’s Pub is located on Highway 12 on the edge of the village towards the Hatteras ferry. Check out the Web site for a menu and calendar of events or and to purchase Pub gear -- www.howardspub.com.



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