The clock is ticking on the final days of White Rock’s Sandpiper Pub.
A part of the community since 1981, doors to the waterfront mainstay will close for the last time at the end of business on Sept. 15.
“It’s a little emotional for me, because it is the end,” said Judy Baker, who has run the pub with Bill Lawrence since 1997. “It’s going to be a huge change for us.”
Exactly what kind of change is in store for the 15595 Marine Dr. site itself, however, is unclear.
But with a new residential development to its west and a three-star hotel to its east, Baker and Lawrence say they wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see condos replace the concrete structure.
“The likelihood’s high,” said Lawrence, a White Rock councillor first elected in 2012. “They have the ability to go as high as next door.”
Real-estate agent Ray Arneja – who, with partner AJ Jaswal, represented Baker and Lawrence in the sale – said Tuesday that there was talk of building apartments on the site, but he believes that has been shelved for the time being.
“The new owners, they definitely would like to renovate the building,” Arneja said.
Lawrence and Baker described the purchasers as a Lower Mainland family who “made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”
The final deal – which did not include the liquor licence – “came close” to the $3.2 million asking price, Lawrence said.
The Sandpiper Liquor Store, located on Johnston Road, was also not included in the sale.
Still, for Baker and Lawrence, saying goodbye to the pub closes a 20-year chapter of their lives, one they describe as chock full of positive memories and the root of many lasting friendships.
The final straw behind their decision, however, was far from positive. It came this past spring, when Lawrence was assaulted outside the Marine Drive business, while he was working as a host at the front door.
Lawrence said he was put in a headlock, punched in the ribs and targeted repeatedly with “the N-word” during the March 20 attack.
“That was the part that just stung the most… that really dug deep,” Lawrence said Monday, sitting at a table inside the pub, of the racial slurs. “Ideally, you want to end on a high note, but that particular incident really put a downer on things.”
Baker described the attack as “the absolute tipping (point)” in the decision to sell, recalling that Lawrence actually gave her a month’s notice and walked away from the business at that point.
It turned into a one-month break for Lawrence, but for both, the motivation to sell was sealed.
“He just said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’” Baker recalled.
“When you get into situations like that at our age, it’s just not worth it. It takes the fun out.”
Two men – Andrew Ronald Bader and David Hugh Watson – are each facing one count of assault causing bodily harm in connection with the incident. Charges were sworn in late June, and the pair are due back in Surrey Provincial Court next week.
Baker and Lawrence, thinking back on their nearly two decades in business, said the assault was the only significant sour note they’ve experienced over the years.
“We have our ups and downs, we have our moments – like all families,” Baker said.
They got involved with the pub in 1997, as a way of investing assets from their amicable divorce. (The pair met while at Simon Fraser University on sports scholarships – for Baker, swimming was the focus; for Lawrence, it was football.) They bought the land itself about five years ago.
Over the years, the pub has hosted wedding and pre-wedding parties, Halloween parties, Christmas parties and more, and developed a reputation for karaoke that Lawrence said put the Sandpiper on the map.
Baker said the pub has been “a meeting ground for a lot of people.”
“We’re a living room,” she said, describing customers who have made it their destination for both social and business gatherings.
“From this, we have absolutely lifelong friends. I met my husband here – not Bill,” she added with a laugh.
Lawrence and Baker said they are proud of the impact the Sandpiper has had in supporting the community, including hosting fundraisers for local fire victims, and donating to Peace Arch Hospital and Sources’ Women’s Place – all efforts they say would not have happened without the support of customers.
“It’s the people that make the Sandpiper,” Lawrence said. “You can always build a venue for any type of purpose, but it’s the people that keep it alive.
“The building, the tables, the chairs… those are just things that are just there.”
Lawrence said the changing environment of the industry also played a role in the decision to sell. Independent, neighbourhood pubs “have become a thing of the past,” he said.
“We feel that we’ve done a lot with it. We’ve had our fun with it, we’ve had a great many years of good times and great people.
“It came time to say, well, we’ve had our fun. Perhaps let’s call it a day and get some rest.”
Down time, however, is not at the top of either Baker or Lawrence’s to-do list following the final closing on Sept. 15.
The two are self-professed workaholics.
Lawrence said he plans to use his new-found time to focus on his city councillor role, and has “a couple of irons in the fire” that he’ll also put more time into.
Baker – in addition to coaching Team Canada Deaf in preparation for the Deaflympics next July in Samsun, Turkey – starts an additional role in September, mentoring swimmers and coaches.
Those looking to know exactly how much time is left to enjoy the pub need only look to the countdown clock hanging above the bar. As of Monday morning, there remained 24 days, 12 hours, 19 minutes…
Lawrence expects a hardy turnout on the last day of business. It falls on a Thursday, the ’Piper’s regular Blues Jam night, and will feature Glen Pearson along with “a few special guests,” he said.
“It should be good,” he said.