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40 years of floating fish and chips in Victoria

Barb’s Fish and Chips owner Ian Poyntz reflects on 40th anniversary

As a past mariner, Ian Poyntz is used to improvising and dealing with challenges in the moment, particularly the weather. Running Barb’s Fish and Chips shop in Fisherman’s Wharf is similar in some ways.

“Both [jobs] are dependent on people. Both are dependent on equipment. In the case of Barb’s, our busyness is decided by the weather. If it rains, things slow down. If it’s windy, things slow down,” Poyntz said.

But other than that, there is little in common between the two careers, a challenge he needed to overcome when he made a first-time business owner in 2006.

As Barb’s reaches the 40-year milestone on June 12, it would appear that all things considered, it’s been relatively smooth sailing for Poyntz, who approaches problems practically and calmly. “Initially I knew very little about the restaurant industry, but that was just learning … it’s really just problem-solving.”

The joint is known worldwide, thanks to its unique location at 1 Dallas Road amongst the floating dock houses. That plus tried-and-true recipes have been a winning combo earning the restaurant international acclaim, close to top spots on Trip Advisor under the Quick Bites category and the Victoria News Best of the City Awards.

Even the pandemic, which affected many businesses negatively, were favourable to the shop, as it became a neighbourhood stop for nearby residents who wanted to get out of their floating houses. Sales for the restaurant went down in 2020 and 2021, but Poyntz said they recovered strongly in ‘22 and ‘23.

Barb’s Fish and Chips after the 2018 renovations. (Courtesy Ian Poyntz)

An estimated 45 per cent of business comes from tourists in non-pandemic years, so Poyntz said the local community stepped up to get them through those times.

“You can’t succeed in business for 40 years without the support of the neighbourhoods around you. Especially during COVID we only had local support, but we had more than usual,” he said.

Since taking over the business, Poyntz said he’s hit several of his goals but also prides himself in paying attention to the job satisfaction of his staff.

“Initially it was to streamline things and to make it a better place to work,” he said. “I mean, you shouldn’t just have a job, you should be enjoying what you’re doing. An employer should do whatever’s possible to make that happen. So that was one of the goals.

“And then of course, six years ago, we built a new building that changed the face of Barb’s from what it was to what it is today. We didn’t change any of the cooking processes or menu items, but we had a much nicer building to work from. And there are now staff areas, changing rooms and a balcony for staff.”

At the end of the day, Poyntz’ approach to longevity in a competitive market is to follow the steady course.

“I think it’s really about producing a standard that people like and then maintaining it,” he said. “You do the best you can.”

As the saying goes, you can never cross the ocean unless you dare to lose sight of the shore, and as Barb’s reaches another milestone, it seems this once mariner’s leap to take on a new challenge paid off.

READ MORE: Barb’s seafood a favourite for 29 seasons

Barb’s Fish and Chips, likely in the ’80s according to now owner Ian Poyntz. (Courtesy Ian Poyntz)

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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