New West pub transforms into Sapperton District Taphouse

Something is brewing in Sapperton – and the Sapperton District Taphouse wants to be part of the action.

Hitesh Panchal and Ghalib Rawji purchased the Fireside Pub in Sapperton two years ago with the goal of transforming the pub and creating a social gathering place for the burgeoning neighbourhood.

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“We wanted to bring a gastropub here with a craft beer combination, and bring a Yaletown/Gastown experience to the people of Sapperton and New West,” Panchal said. “Sapperton is booming.”

With a variety of developments planned for the neighbourhood, an expansion underway at Royal Columbian Hospital and the Brewery District being built just down the street, the plan was to create a neighbourhood pub so residents don’t have to venture out of town to check out craft breweries in Vancouver, Richmond or Port Moody.

“It’s a cool concept because of the craft beer. We want to bring the craft beer community together. They love their craft beer,” Panchal said. “Bud and Bud Light are the only two mainstream beers that we have. Everything else is pretty much craft.”

The neighbourhood pub features 33 craft beer taps from Lower Mainland breweries, including Steel & Oak, Dageraad and Stanley Park Brewing, but it also carries a selection of wines. Beer flights can be accompanied by sliders, while wine flights are partnered with a cheese board – all part of the social experience the pub is going for.

“It’s more like a social hangout place. That’s the vision we had in mind,” Panchal said. “We wanted a social gathering place.”

The Fireside Pub’s crowd typically consisted of middle-aged men, but folks of all ages are enjoying the ambiance of the Sapperton District Taphouse. While minors weren’t allowed in the previous pub, they’re welcome to accompany their parents in the District until 8 p.m.

“This is what we wanted – families,” Panchal said. “Families can come in and have a glass of beer and a good meal.”

Sports enthusiasts can watch all the action on two large-screen projectors and a dozen TVs, while drinking craft beer and dining on gastro-pub food like Ugly Duck Wings, Creole prawns in garlic butter or deep fried ice cream.

The business partners are no strangers to the industry, as they also own Rocky Point Taphouse in Port Moody and The Savoy Pub in Vancouver. They Fireside had seen better days – both physically and financially – when they bought it two years ago.

“This used to do $200 a day in food sales. Now I’m doing $2,000 a day in food sales,” Panchal said. “Before, nobody would come in. It was rundown. I’d see 200 people pass by, but out of 200 people, one would stop in. It was a regulars’ bar. The regulars were great. They supported us all the time and they still support us. They love the change.”

In transitioning from the Fireside to the Sapperton District Taphouse, the owners spent nearly $250,000 renovating the space at 421 East Columbia St. With a West Coast vibe, the District retains an oldtime feel with the addition of a brick wall and retention of the fireplace for which the Fireside was named.

The owners of the Sapperton District Taphouse believe Sapperton is “the next happening place” and hope it may be the first in a chain of District pubs in the Lower Mainland. They’re thrilled to be operating a pub in New West and are exploring other business opportunities as well.

“New West is a great community,” Panchal said. “We were looking to get a brewery here, but haven’t been successful so far. That was before we bought this bar. Then we said, ‘You know what? We are in the bar industry, why don’t we open up another bar?’ We are still interested. We will still be looking into it.”

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