|Ocracoke Update: Life without a highway
January 17, 2008
Howard’s Pub, an island institution, takes a well-deserved break
By JAMIE TUNNELL
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
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
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
“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.