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Cedar Hill golf course restaurant closes for good Friday

Nine regular employees at Shank's Pub restaurant expected to have work at the grab-and-run snack shop in the clubhouse.
Cedar Hill Golf Course Restaurant closes
Cedar Hill Golf Course restaurant executive chef Dino Clarkson cleans the grill in the kitchen as he gets ready to shut down. The restaurant closes its door for the last time on Friday.

Cooks at Shank's Pub will grill their last burgers Friday. Servers will wait on their last tables. The closure of the restaurant overlooking Cedar Hill golf course was announced Jan. 12, but it's still a hard pill to swallow for those losing their jobs.

"It's been very tough," said Dino Clarkson, who's been executive chef at the restaurant since it opened in 1997. "I was aware we were running in a deficit, but I wasn't sure what would transpire, when it would and how it would."

Clarkson is expecting today's closure to be hard on everyone.

"It's sad to see this place go – it'll be very emotional. But we're going to go out in style … whoop it up for the people coming in for dinner."

Saanich has said that most of the nine regular employees at the restaurant will continue to work at the grab-and-run snack shop in the clubhouse. However, 14 on-call employees will no longer be needed.

Clarkson commends Saanich for helping employees with transition options.

"I can't say enough of how management and union and HR is really helping us land on our feet, and it is a bit of a time crunch to find places for people to go," he said. "I think they've done a great job."

The 48-year-old chef has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 13, and is looking to stay in the "Saanich family" with a job in groundskeeping or landscaping with the parks department.

He's currently taking horticultural, landscaping, pesticide, tree-identification and building management courses to round out his skills.

Since mid-January, Saanich staff have been inundated with emails and phone calls from outraged golfers, walkers, neighbours and restaurant patrons who felt they should've been consulted before the municipally-run restaurant was shut down.

The decision to close the restaurant, as part of a food and beverage service restructuring at the golf course, was made at an in-camera meeting. Discussion wasn't public because restructuring involved personnel issues.

Coun. Vic Derman is one of four councillors who last week told the **News that closing the restaurant without public input was a mistake. He says confidential information could have been left out from public discussions about the golf course’s financial viability.

"I think that material could've been brought to council that didn't involve directly the issue of personnel, simply the future of the restaurant and future of the course, and community consultation could've been started much earlier," he said. "The decision to close down the restaurant, I'm not sure it's an in-camera item. What happens to personnel clearly is (in-camera). I think they can be seen as independent issues."

Saanich has held two meetings with the community since the announcement, and a third is scheduled for next Tuesday (Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m. at Garth Homer Society). The restaurant closure is a done deal, much to the outrage of many who've attended the two meetings.

Tuesday's meeting is a budget meeting, with a specific focus on options to decrease the golf course's projected $820,000 deficit for this year.

Another meeting between people with interests in the course was expected to be held late Wednesday.

Shank's Pub is open Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.