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Kelowna’s Doc Willoughby’s pub to reopen as Bernie’s for dinner and a movie

Doc Willoughby's is being renovated, rebranded and renamed.
Doc Willoughby's is being renovated, rebranded and renamed.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

One of Kelowna’s longest standing pubs is now closed but is slated to re-open in June with a new name and a new movie-centred theme.

Doc Willoughby’s was a fixture on Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna since it opened in 1999.

It was sold to Kyle and Carolyn Nixon last spring.

READ MORE: Popular downtown Kelowna watering hole Doc Willoughby's has been sold

It’s currently undergoing renovations and a liquor licence upgrade with plans to reopen in early to mid-June as Bernie’s Supper Club and Cinema.

“It’s kind of our love song to Bernard Avenue,” Kyle Nixon told Wednesday, May 11.

“My wife and I were both born and raised in Kelowna. We lived here at a time when there were two movie theatres in downtown Kelowna. We have a lot of fond memories. Bernard Avenue is a street that is special to us in Kelowna, so Bernie’s is short for Bernard.”

The old Uptown movie theatre on Water Street closed and was demolished in 2020. The Paramount on Bernard Avenue, while it still retains its sign, closed in 2016 and reopened as Craft Beer Market in 2018.

READ MORE: Former Paramount theatre in Kelowna reopens as craft beer restaurant

Now, a new kind of movie theatre is coming back to downtown at a time when the future of cinemas is far from certain in the age of streaming video and home theatres.

“Movie theatres are not a growing segment,” Nixon said. “There are small pockets of boutique movie theatres that are doing really well and we’re hoping to do that. But, we also have to prove to the people of Kelowna that, if you’re going to pay $10, $12 to come see a movie with us, that it’s worth it, that there's value in it that’s a lot different than anywhere else you’re going to go.”

That means “state of the art cinema technology” with a mix of old, new and theme movies in a space that is different than traditional theatres with a mix of booths and reclining seats.

It will also come with table service for food and beverages.

The cinema will be in a room above the bar. It will open half-an-hour before shows start and close half-an-hour after so patrons can retire to the bar downstairs. It can also be rented for special events.

The upstairs room was in place before the Nixons bought Doc Willoughby’s but it needed renovation. They're also expanding their liquor licence to allow for 333 seats, about half of which will be upstairs and half downstairs. Currently they have 155 seats downstairs and 28 on the patio.

READ MORE: Skinny Duke's Glorious Emporium in Kelowna is all right, all right, all right

Kelowna city council supported the liquor licence application, May 10, and Bernie's has preliminary approval from the province, Nixon said.

Walls and pillars have been removed from downstairs which will be more of a pub setting with a southern California, light food theme.

“It’s something new and different,” Nixon said. “We’re excited to bring it to Kelowna.”

The Doc Willoughby’s website says its reopening on May 19 but that site has been abandoned by the Nixons and is being manipulated by someone else, he said. The Bernie’s website will be up soon.

The Nixons have already proven successful with BNA Brewing Co. and its six-lane bowling alley and Skinny Duke’s Glorious Emporium, both also in downtown Kelowna.

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