After two months of renovations, Kristian Camero, Jessica Wood and Stephen Barton have opened the doors on their dream restaurant.
They just can’t let anyone in.
The Black Cauldron, a cocktail lounge featuring a witchy aesthetic with velvet furniture and drapes, patio tables with individual fire pits, and a charcuterie menu, opened in Nelson on April 8.
But with provincial health rules restricting indoor dining, the trio’s grand opening has been limited to patio service, takeout and nervous optimism.
“We’re working on scary, thin margins, but we were just really, really hopeful that it was all going to work out,” said Camero.
The last year has not been an ideal time to open a restaurant, and it’s not clear when the situation will get better.
Nelson restaurants have been forced to deal with staff layoffs, belligerent or hesitant customers, and sudden changes to provincial health orders. The latest was an extension Tuesday to the indoor dining ban through to May.
Camero, Wood and Barton all knew this was happening when they put in an offer on the former All Seasons Cafe at 620 Herridge Lane last fall. They saw possibilities for the building, which comes with a tree-covered patio and offers a secluded space just off the city’s main thoroughfare.
“It’s a very special place. It’s beautiful,” said Camero. “I don’t think you need to be from Nelson to see and recognize the potential that it had when we bought it.”
All three owners, who met after Camero and Wood relocated to Nelson two years ago, bring an eclectic mix of experience to The Black Cauldron.
Camero, from Philadelphia originally, was working in Seattle in the maritime industry when he met and fell in love with Wood, a mechanical engineer from Prince Edward Island. Barton grew up in Belgium and ran an event management company.
And, of course, they each have experience in the restaurant industry as well. So when the property became available, the three roommates decided they couldn’t pass on the opportunity even in the middle of the pandemic.
They took possession of the building on Feb. 2, and Camero said up to the opening were each putting in 14-hour days renovating the space. They even took some inspiration from the pandemic, with a spaced-out seating plan that Camero said won’t change after the restrictions are eventually lifted.
“I don’t want people to feel I’m packing them into a place like sardines,” he said. “I want people to feel like they have time to enjoy themselves and spaces to enjoy themselves. And also be comfortable, because people are going to be uncomfortable with being close to people for a long time after this is gone.”
In the meantime, they are hoping their restaurant doesn’t require a magic potion to stay open.
Since opening, Camero said patrons have been finding The Black Cauldron and frequenting its patio. The owners have also hired staff with an eye on a COVID-free future.
“It’s a sink or swim kind of situation. And we took the risk and just kind of jumped,” said Camero. “We’re all hoping for the best but it’s a day-by-day, scary adventure.”
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