By Meg Olson
As Nick Kiniski finished up his 29th year as owner of Kiniski’s Reef Tavern last June, he had the iconic property on the market. It isn’t for sale anymore.
“I changed my mind,” Kiniski said, preparing for a 30th anniversary party on June 30. I think I’d be lost if I sold it.”
On June 28, 1988, having left a career as a professional wrestler, the then 27-year-old Kiniski bought the Point Roberts waterfront tavern from Earl McNabb for $300,000 and hit town to take over on the busy Memorial Day weekend. “I was working behind the bar learning the till and I ordered a Pepsi and Earl charged me for it,” he said. “He told me to watch my pennies because they grow into dollars and I’ve always remembered that.”
Back then, the big money was in gambling. “You couldn’t come in and spend $100 on beer in my establishment but you could spend $1,000 on gambling really quick,” Kiniski said. The pulltab business dwindled as more gambling options became available in Canada. With stricter enforcement of drinking and driving laws, Kiniski said Point Roberts taverns also lost their appeal as weekend party havens.
Last year, with the help of manager Allison Calder, Kiniski transitioned to a family restaurant and undertook significant renovations: a new floor, new furniture, a fresh lawn, even a sandbox on the patio for kids. “It’s doing great, really busy,” he said. “150 people … that’s a big restaurant.” Adequate staffing, always a challenge on the Point, continues to be the biggest hurdle.
The anniversary celebration on June 30 will feature music by Shaune Anne Feuz, appetizers and a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight.
“I’ve sure got to meet a lot of nice people over the years and I’m hoping lots of them will be there,” Kiniski said. “My dad used to say to me “There’s nothing wrong with walking into your own bar when you’re 70. You get bored when you’re old.” So hopefully I have it another 30 years.”