Pioneer House restaurant has been closed since they had a fire last summer. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

Business notes: Work underway to re-open Duncan’s Pioneer House restaurant following fire

The main restaurant area was largely spared

It seems hundreds of hungry patrons are hoping to see the doors of Pioneer House Restaurant open. And soon.

“Our contractor is there today,” said manager Venessa Fischer, who has been working hard behind the scenes to get the popular eatery back in business following a fire last August.

“I can’t give you a date obviously, they just started [Tuesday],” said Fischer who has worked at the Trans Canada Highway restaurant for 12 years.

The fire was relatively minor, starting in a rear structure before spreading to a dumpster. The main restaurant area was largely spared but Fischer says smoke damage was extensive.

“It took them more than three weeks and they cleaned it from top to bottom.”

Fischer says although it has been nine months since the fire, everyone has been working together to get the restaurant up and running.

“It has been an eye-opener to me as to what it takes. It seems a week or two ends up being a month or two. Our contractor is very busy and the sub-trades are busy.”

Facebook updates have generated dozens of comments, with faithful customers expressing their support and looking forward to the day when Pioneer House’s open sign is lit.

“It’s an inspiration to us and has kept us happy and upbeat,” says Fischer.

About 40 people worked at the restaurant, 20 in the kitchen and 20 up front and Fischer says there were a number of students and part-timers employed at Pioneer House.

“I sure hope we can get them back,” she added.

• • •

The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce is continuing its advocacy work as participants in this week’s BC Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Burnaby.

Sonja Nagel, executive director of the Chamber, says among the issues the organization is working on is the new Employer’s Health Tax. She says small business is feeling the squeeze of the new tax.

“The Chamber network is working to convince the government to increase the payroll threshold for the EHT from $500,000 to $1.5 million,” says Nagel.

“Advocating on important issues like this is some of the most important work we do in supporting our members.

“We will be submitting and partnering on several other policies. The first submission is from the four Cowichan Chambers (Duncan Cowichan, Chemainus, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith) regarding WorkSafe BC’s overfunding of $6.4 billion,” Nagel says.

“We are recommending that overfunding should be reduced by returning a portion to employers who pay into the fund, and that WorkSafe BC create a reasonable funded ratio and create a rebate policy that triggers an automatic refund to employers when WorkSafe BC surplus exceeds the fair funding level.”

The Chamber’s second submission is partnered with 17 island Chambers on a Thriving Orcas, Thriving Coastal Communities initiative to provide a balanced approach to protecting the Southern Residence Killer Whales while supporting the tidal recreational fishery on the west coast of B.C.

“Our last policy is in support of B.C.’s land-based wineries, cideries and distilleries to encourage expansion and development of these agri-tourism sectors in B.C.

“We will also be supporting another policy that is of interest to our local distilleries which is support of a federal excise tax review for distilled spirits,” Nagel says.

• • •

The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and Enrico Winery are partnering on a Wine Down Wednesday on May 29.

It will be an evening of casual networking, fine wines and delicious appetizers, promises Alex Wheeler, events and membership manager at the Chamber.

“This is a great opportunity for members new and old to connect and enjoy the stunning ambience and grounds at one of Cowichan’s beautiful vineyards.”

Tickets are $20 and include appetizers, wine tastings and an Enrico Wine Glass as a special take-home gift. Advance registration is required.

The event runs from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.

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