Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happinez by the Glass

The Victorian zeitgeist of my hometown lasted long into the twentieth century and is well characterized by the lengthy presence of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which still has some 5000 members worldwide. Even in the late sixties (1960s) and into the seventies, proper ladies did not enter a public drinking establishment, and the "ladies" who did (through their own special door with an escort!) were suspect. The "Swinging Sixties" and all that followed happened largely in a bubble of denial in terms of the city's self-view.

Harbourside, Saint John, NB
Fortunately, in the last ten to twenty years, the city has changed, leaving behind its brand of sternness and the ladies who did not drink.

How exciting now to see a downtown with many small restaurants and bars, some with small decks and patios where people can enjoy a drink outside. Nightly, there is music on the boardwalk beside the harbour - full with restaurants, bars, and people of all ages.

from the Happinez Bar website
My favourite discovery of this trip was The Happinez Wine Bar on Princess Street. In the lowest level of a late 19th C building, the bar has original exposed brick and stone, even an old bank vault that is now put to a much happier purpose as wine cellar.
The owner is personable and very knowledgable about his wine, of which there is a great selection. It really is "a little bar with lots of wine," as well as lots of atmosphere and service.

Saint John has changed its brand from the dutiful, stern city to one of fun and outdoor entertainment. The carpet stays out much later than it used to.

from the Happinez Bar website
And ladies may enter through the front door!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the outstanding posts

Hels said...


I don't suppose I would like to have been limited in life by the heavy hand of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. But I am quite impressed by the Women’s Institutes which originated in Canada in 1897. Tbe good sisters in the Women’s Institute movement may have been the same women as those in the WCTU, but working towards a more popular cause.

I am always delighted when strong women band together, giving each other confidence and political savvy. But temperance has a long lasting impact, doesn't it.

By the way, I went to an IRC reunion in Saint John New Brunswick (1994-5?) and had a fabulous long weekend :)

ChrisJ said...


Thanks for the compliment!

ChrisJ said...


Yes, the Women's Institute has done much good work worldwide. The WCTU was more religious and moral, and less secular - Christianity and temperance were their aims; probably some women did belong to both.

I think 1994-95 was about the time the city really started to change - techie influx partially. It seemed a pretty grim place growing up there, though.

Owen Gray said...

Te WCTU used to occupy a building across the street form Ryerson University, Chris.

Oh, how Toronto has changed since the ladies met regularly in that building.

When I was a kid growing up in Montreal, we used to claim that, after 9 PM, they rolled up the sidewalks in Toronto.

Now the city never sleeps.

ChrisJ said...


True, but TO was way ahead of Saint John - the Loyalist city clung to its ways for a long time.

Hels said...

Chris and Owen

"We used to claim that, after 9 PM, they rolled up the sidewalks in Toronto". I suspect that is the legacy of living in the British Empire as it was.

In the central business district of Melbourne, the last office and shop worker got on the last tram at 7 PM to go home, and they could just about turn off the street lights.

Things have changed, but I used to wish that Australia had been colonised by the French or the Dutch or the Spanish.

ChrisJ said...


Montreal is an excellent example!