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West Island Pub Grows During COVID

Entrepreneur’s corner | May 12, 2021

Jim Beauchamp, 52, had worked in restaurants since moving to the West Island from Lachute, Quebec to attend John Abbott College at the age of 17.  When he finally decided he wanted to own his own business, he knew it had to be an Irish pub. "I told my mother on her death bed, ‘Mom, I'm going to open up a place called Cunningham's. It's going to be named after you and your dad and I want to continue that heritage,’" he said.

That was in 2004 and Cunningham's Pub has since become one of the most well-known pubs in Montreal, especially this year thanks to an unlikely boost from none other than Hollywood star Halle Berry.

Momentum hampered by the pandemic

But it hasn't been an easy road for Jim Beauchamp, especially during the pandemic. "It was petrifying when I first shut down in March, and then again in October when a second shutdown came it was even scarier," he said.

The business owner had to cut 70% of his staff, toss out frozen food and dump 18 kegs of beer each time he closed "That's like $10 000 that no one's paying me back," he said.

So he pivoted, moving to "99.9%" food, along with developing a website, honing in on takeout, investing in marketing, and selling bottled wing sauce.

Jim Beauchamp says he wouldn’t have been able to get through without support from the community who supported him throughout the lockdowns. He also credits PME MTL for helping him navigate uncharted waters.

When the government decided to go with PME MTL to disperse the emergency assistance to small and medium-sized businesses, they made it so easy.

Star shines on Cunningham’s

In December 2020, actress Halle Berry was in Montreal shooting the movie Moonfall when she got into a passionate discussion with stuntman director Patrick Kerton about her favourite food — chicken wings. Kerton just so happened to be Jim Beauchamp’s business partner at Cunningham’s Pub, so he ordered some wings for her. "She really, really enjoyed the wings and then her and Pat were talking and she said, ‘Listen, I'm just gonna do a little something.’" What can it be?

Berry recorded a nearly three-minute video endorsing Cunningham's Pub without asking for anything in return. "Oh my God it's so personal,” Jim Beauchamp said of the video. “It blew my mind.”

Cunningham's Pub usually gets about 4000 visits to its website in a month but after Halle Berry's post the website hit 11 million views in four days and the story made its way across the world. "We did 27 media interviews over three days,” Jim Beauchamp said. “It just turned our world upside down."

The business is continuing to ride the Halle Berry buzz and persevere during continued pandemic restrictions, selling bottles of its wing sauces in stores across Montreal, as well as in Ontario with plans to move across Canada.

Beauchamp’s customers have been telling him Cunningham’s Pub success isn’t just a coincidence — it’s good karma for all the years he’s been serving and supporting the community. “It's nice to say, ‘Well, you know she did this and then good things happen to good people,’” he said. “It’s just wow. It’s almost too sappy of a story. It’s almost too Hollywood.”

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Cunningham's Pub is supported by PME MTL West-Island

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