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Recipe for success: Portside Sydney inspires similar business in Port Hawkesbury

The Portside Sydney eatery sits on the waterfront overlooking the boardwalk. The seasonal restaurant has proved very popular over its first three summers of operation and has inspired the in-the-works establishment of a Port Hawkesbury location. Jeremy Fraser/Cape Breton Post
The Portside Sydney eatery sits on the waterfront overlooking the boardwalk. The seasonal restaurant has proved very popular over its first three summers of operation and has inspired the in-the-works establishment of a Port Hawkesbury location. Jeremy Fraser/Cape Breton Post - David Jala

PORT HAWKESBURY – A Cape Breton Island restauranteur with an eye for waterfront opportunities will soon be offering Port Hawkesbury and area customers a view of the Strait of Canso. 

Buoyed by the success of his seasonal Portside Beer Garden on the Sydney waterfront, hospitality industry czar Danny Ellis now has his sights set on a similar operation in Port Hawkesbury, a town of just over 3,200 people located six kilometres from the Canso Causeway. 

“It was through a third party who approached Port Hawkesbury and who approached me and told me that Portside would be a perfect fit for the town in regard to waterfront development,” explained Ellis, who confirmed that Portside Port Hawkesbury will open this summer in the Station House on Water Street. 

“They then reached out and suggested we should explore the opportunity. Now it has all come to fruition – it’s all happening and we’re getting ready to go. We’re really excited. We think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us and that it’s a wonderful opportunity for Port Hawkesbury, so we’ll work hard to make sure it is.” 

Danny Ellis currently operates four restaurants in Sydney. FILE - David Jala
Danny Ellis currently operates four restaurants in Sydney. FILE - David Jala

 

Ellis is a longtime businessman who presently operates four Sydney food and beverage establishments that, along with the aforementioned Portside, include the Boardroom Taproom and Eatery, Daniel’s Alehouse and Eatery and the Henry Street Pub. 

Portside opened in the summer of 2018 and the Taproom, which also sits adjacent to the harbourside boardwalk, followed suit a year later. Collectively, the two establishments employ more than 100 people during peak summer periods. Both have proved popular with locals and tourists alike, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Portside Sydney had an outstanding year in 2020 – we were lined up on almost every sunny day and we saw a lot more traffic on the boardwalk,” said Ellis, who is hoping the same recipe will be equally successful in Port Hawkesbury. 

“It will look very similar to Portside Sydney. We have more glass from the Centennial Arena, so it will be glassed in just like it is in Sydney. There will be wooden benches, similar seating, the same colour scheme and the same menu.” 

Ellis said he plans to take advantage of his Sydney establishments to help train staff for Portside Port Hawkesbury. 

“We’ll bring people down to Sydney and they’ll work at Daniel’s or at the Taproom where they’ll learn our menu and our kitchen habits,” he said. 

“We’ll be up there for the first couple of weeks to oversee things and my chef will commute back and forth.” 

This Google Maps screen capture shows the location of the soon-to-come Portside Port Hawkesbury. The new waterfront eatery will be located at the Station House, shown on the right, on Water Street across from the boardwalk that runs along the Strait of Canso. CONTRIBUTED/GOOGLE MAPS - David Jala
This Google Maps screen capture shows the location of the soon-to-come Portside Port Hawkesbury. The new waterfront eatery will be located at the Station House, shown on the right, on Water Street across from the boardwalk that runs along the Strait of Canso. CONTRIBUTED/GOOGLE MAPS - David Jala

 

Town of Port Hawkesbury chief administrative officer Terry Doyle said the venture is good news for a community that serves as a regional service centre to an estimated 34,000 people and whose waterfront has been under-developed in recent years.  

“We’re anxious to see development on the waterfront – it’s been stagnant for quite some time,” he said. 

“We see this as an avenue to bring more people to the waterfront and to provide more services to the waterfront that aren’t really available in town right now. Portside has agreed to invest in capital in leasehold improvements to make this a reality, so we’re looking forward to seeing this come to fruition.” 

Meanwhile, former Port Hawkesbury mayor Billy Joe MacLean said he is investing about $400,000 in his Carriage House pub on Reeves Street that is managed by his daughter Trish MacLean.  

The longtime mayor and bar proprietor said that the money is being used to make improvements both inside and outside of the establishment. The upgrades include a new outdoor seating area and stage for entertainment. 

Meanwhile, Ellis said he is looking forward to another successful season at Portside Sydney, which employed 54 workers last summer. He said he’s looking to open up that location on “the first sunny day” in June. 

“I’m excited about all this and it’s happening at a time when I thought I didn’t want to do this anymore,” said the 63-year-old entrepreneur. 

“I thought I would retire but now I have four restaurants so I guess I’m going in the wrong direction for retirement.” 

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