While Monday wasn’t a great day for restaurants, Jovie Joki, owner of The Irish Harp Pub, was celebrating a successful fundraising drive for Red Roof Retreat, a cause the local pub has supported from its earliest days.
Having just heard the news that indoor dining will close Wednesday, Joki was preparing to pivot to outdoor dining and takeout — her patio has a heated tent that has become a popular extension to the pub.
Throughout the month of December Joki held a 50-50 raffle each band night, typically Thursdays and through the weekend, and any time there was a special event, raising $9,000 for Red Roof, which provides respite and recreational programs to children, youth and young adults with special needs and their families in the Niagara region.
Ward Simpson, chair of the board of RRR, says with two of the organization’s annual pasta dinner fundraisers cancelled, each of which would have raised about $100,000, the ongoing support from The Irish Harp has been very much appreciated.
Red Roof has also developed a Red Rovers monthly giving program, which provides the organization with a dependable base of support towards offering their services. It’s been very helpful for them to know they have that money coming in every month, says Simpson, and it’s a program they would like to expand. For more information visit redroofretreat.com/redrovers.
Joki says her goal for the Red Roof draw was to raise $10,000, but once restaurant capacities were lowered mid-December, she knew she couldn’t make that target, and matched the fundraising portion of the draw to get closer to it.
“Our guests have been very generous,” says Joki. “Some just gave money and didn’t stay for the draw or want their share, and at least 10 times people gave their entire winnings back to Red Roof.”
There was one draw that was won by the staff, who had each put in $20, and they too gave back their winning portion, says Joki.
“It’s a great cause, one everybody believes in,” she says, adding she was proud of her great staff for also personally supporting the organization. “It was really touching. They work for their tips, and the prize would have been a nice little bonus.”
It was the staff who sold the 50-50 tickets, and as busy as the pub has been, they seemed happy to do it, says Simpson, making it look like fun. “It looked like a real labour of love for them.”
The association with Red Roof goes back to Trevor Smyth, who opened the pub, and became close friends with Simpson, sharing a love of all things Irish. Smyth passed away in 2013, and Joki has continued to carry on with support for the local charity.
She has several special events planned for the coming months, including a bingo night with Simpson as the bingo caller, which will make for a fun evening when it’s allowed to happen, she says.
She was also planning an event for the Icewine Festival that was supposed to happen later on this month, but that has been cancelled.
“We’re always looking for other forms of entertainment during the winter months. We had a Yuk Yuks night planned, but we’ve had to cancel that as well.”
The Irish Harp has its regulars, both locals and those from across the region who come for the atmosphere and great food, and for the coming weeks, the restaurant will turn to outside dining, takeout and delivery, hoping to resume its special events and indoor dining before too long.