An inside look at the return of the Kings Head on Yew

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Jimmy Darbyshire, the new General Manager at the Kings Head Inn on Yew, is the first person to say that the establishment is going through a transition. This time around, the goal is to make the spot a better version of what it was originally trying to be – a good neighbourhood pub.

In its heyday, the Kings Head was the friendly, beery hole where you’d hang around for hours, watching the game and carving your name on the old wooden tables. In summer, you’d occupy the patio and watch the beach traffic come and go.

The Kings Head as we once knew it disappeared in December 2011. Wings – in all its tacky glory – came into the space with $800,000 of renos and structural fix ups. While the structural changes were necessary, the franchise, interior decorating and theme were universally disliked. The Kits community rejected it. Regulars stopped coming. It was a short-lived, awkward period.

“The Kings Head was boycotted. We got a lot of negative feedback,” says Darbyshire, who’s heading up the Kings Head Inn’s return, complete with a new craft beer and food menu.

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The new “royal” food menu is full of heavy pub-ish items like meatloaf, beef pot pie, mac and cheese and fish and chips, as well as classic beer sponges, such as nachos, poutine and wings. Almost everything is under $10. As for the brews, you’ll find 49th Parallel’s Old Boy on tap  next to Main Street Pilsner, Fat Tug IPA etc. There are 14 beers on tap in total. $3 Jack shots are available every day of the week.

Darbyshire took on the role at Kings Head in December 2012, a few months after the pub reopened under its original name.

“This is a tight knit community. It’s been great to get to know it over the last few months,” says Darbyshire. “People have come back since we reopened as the Kings Head. Chains just don’t seem to do well in this neighbourhood. If everyone knew that Local was owned by Joey, it might happen there too.”

The interior is in the process of returning to its original appearance. Darbyshire’s got the wood paneling back in place.  Unfortunately, the old tables, signs and chandelier were put up for grabs during the Wings renos and lost. Darbyshire is looking for the chandelier – using ads in the Georgia Straight.

Darbyshire filled me in on a little Kings Head history. For those who don’t know, the pub opened 1973 and in 1993, the current owner, Rana Singh got a hold of it. Singh, who owns many properties in the Lower Mainland, once ran the Kings Head himself but has gotten older and wanted help. That’s where Wings came in. When it was clear Wings was not a fit, Singh has lost a lot of money extricating himself from the Wings franchise contract. Instead of accepting other lease offers from the Donnelly Group and the Manchester, Singh chose Darbyshire as his go-to guy to get the business back on his feet.

“I’m trying to bring the Kings Head back from the dead and rebuild what was lost,” says Darbyshire. “The Kings Head has so much history.”
When I ask who the current clientele is he says: “We have a mix. University students appreciate our $5 daily dinner special. We also have an older set. Then there’s the same people going to Chewies, Abigail’s and Local. They stop by here.”

The Kings Head Inn has a new jukebox, Buck Hunter, and the largest TV screen on Yew Street. Darbyshire’s goal with the menu is to have you eating (and drinking) like Kings yet paying like peasants.

Kings Head Inn, 1618 Yew Street, (604) 738-6966

Have you dropped by the Kings Head since Wings left? Tell us what you think about the new menu.

3 Responses to “An inside look at the return of the Kings Head on Yew”

  1. Nicole says:

    I went there late in the evening in early December and got the late night menu. We tried some nachos, which were pretty subpar as far as bar food goes. I’m hoping the regular menu will improve.

    The one thing that really bothered me, though, was that they had a Celtic band playing some live music–which was great!–but they forgot to turn off the stereo system, which was blasting some annoying rock music. On top of that, the TVs were on. It made for an irritatingly noisy evening!

  2. Carly says:

    I’m so glad to see that the King’s Head is back! It such a local and community oriented pub, I’ve never had a bad time there. I am a little disappointed that my name on the bathroom wall has been painted over. Next time I go, I’m bringing a sharpie! Be warned, Jimmy!!

  3. James Turick says:

    I love that its back! So many good memories there over the years. Now all they need is to bring their house band back. Friday nights at the kingshead is not the same without them.