By John Atkinson
Mike Holmes wanted to focus on fun when he teamed up with friends Conor Fleck and Graham Campbell to open The Loft Pub in 2016.
And now, along with offering classic drinks and delicious food, live music seven days a week is The Loft’s biggest draw.
Holmes endured his former enterprise, the Tudor House in Esquimalt, burning down due to an electrical fault in 2012; plus his business partner at Ma Miller’s in Goldstream passing away in 2014.
“I needed a fun, fresh challenge after those tough times. We opened in April, 2016 and wanted a bar focused on music seven days a week. None of us can play, but we love listening and the vibe. We offer blues and rock principally and showcase new talent.”
The Loft is located in the heart of Victoria’s Gorge neighbourhood and blended with the Days Inn hotel.
“We pride ourselves on making good, quality food from scratch and our trio of kitchen staff do a fantastic job. It’s about getting back to basics and being unique.”
The night I sampled The Loft, Tom Morrisey was playing. I drank Blue Buck and enjoyed the tasty Smoke House Deluxe burger; a house-made patty topped with cheddar, bacon, onion rings, and house-made sauces.
“On the drinks front, most of my customers drink pints of Lucky or one of the Phillips line; a Blue Buck or Free Ride. Or Hoyne’s Dark Matter. We have one loyal customer who drinks four pints of Dark Matter every day. We retained it for him and people love it.”
The pub also has a unique way of supporting its many acts via a donation jar. “It creates an environment where everyone is encouraged to support local music. We started this during COVID and it stuck.”
Holmes moved to Victoria from the Fraser Valley, via Vancouver and Whistler, in 1995—buying the Tudor House. He then met Graham and Conor en route as he grew his community and they hit it off.
When he’s not at The Loft, Holmes has a passion for motorbikes—he owns six—and loves going on tours and adventures with friends across North America.
“Graham, Conor and I all have three very different lifestyles outside of here. Conor is in the Caribbean right now with his long lost brother. They were born 18 months apart and their mother put them up for adoption. They did Ancestry.com and tracked each other down. Quite an amazing story.”
What makes a great bartender?
“What makes our bartenders great is that they know everyone’s name. And if they don’t know it when you arrive, they’ll know it by the time you leave. So the interaction between our customers and the staff is always key.”
What are The Loft’s signature drinks and meals?
“The signature part of our drinks is that all the mugs are frozen, so you’re getting the coldest beer possible in Victoria. They’re also a full pint, which doesn’t happen very often anymore. We want to make it the best possible entertainment.”
Describe your perfect customer experience?
“The perfect experience is sitting at the bar and being able to chat to the guy on your left, your right and the guy in front of you like you’ve known them for years. And you have. And there’s also a drink waiting for you when you arrive, as I’ve spotted you approaching. Staying one step ahead with exceptional service is essential.”
What is your best memory at The Loft?
“It’s meeting and listening to the stories of the guys on stage. The Powder Blues Band, who were huge when I grew up in the ’80s, now play here every Thursday. The quality of musicians we get will blow you away. The musicians connect with you when they play—but the stories behind the songs strengthen those connections.”
To learn more about The Loft, visit: https://www.loftpubvictoria.com/.