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Port Moody pub transforms into nursery to survive latest shutdown

A Port Moody pub has a strategy for surviving the latest round of COVID-19 public health restrictions that shut down all indoor dining. It's selling plants.
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Ryan Moreno, the co-founder and CEO of the Joseph Richards Group, with some of the planters being sold at a pop-up nursery in the company's new Livelyhood pub in Port Moody.

“Pivot” has become one of the buzzwords of 13 months of pandemic shutdowns and public health orders. Restaurants have pivoted to take-out. Hair salons pivoted to take-home colouring kits. Distillers pivoted to pump out hand sanitizer.

Now, a Port Moody pub is putting a whole new twist in its pandemic search to maintain a viable business.

It’s selling plants.

Actually, the parking lot nursery in front of the Livelyhood pub on St. Johns Street isn’t a completely new idea.

The pub’s owner, Joseph Richard Group, opened pop-up garden centres at several of its establishments across the Lower Mainland last year when pubs and restaurants were first shut down to limit transmission of COVID-19.

It was a serendipitous solution to a difficult problem, said CEO and co-founder, Ryan Moreno, as the hospitality company tried to generate revenue and keep staff employed by joining forces with a nursery also struggling with the impact of the initial lockdowns.

“It seemed like a good fit,” he said.

The partnership went better than anticipated, Moreno added. And while neither side got rich on the unique venture, staff were able to pick up extra shifts, and the pubs remained engaged with their communities.

So when the latest public health orders again shut down indoor service at pubs and restaurants just a week after Livelyhood opened, the company reconnected with the nursery and got its latest pop-up garden centre operating within days.

Moreno said the venture is giving shifts to some of the pub’s 60 full-time and part-time employees at a juncture when the team was just starting to come together.

He said the ‘pivot’ servers, cooks and busboys have made from slinging ales and fries to handing over hanging baskets has been relatively seamless.

“A lot of the people are really adaptable,” Moreno said.

He said the camaraderie and community being built out of the steel storage container in Livelyhood’s parking lot and amidst the rollaway carts of colourful planters will serve the pub well going forward.

“Our business is as much about creating an environment that builds relationships,” he said.

And if some of those gardeners come back for a post-planting beer and burger when the pub is fully open again, so much the better.

“It’s more about the community we create,” Moreno said.