New Owner Takes Over The Griffin Gastropub On May 15

The Griffin Gastropub
Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil. Photo courtesy of Curt Dunlop

The Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge is getting a new owner on May 15.

Current owners Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil took over the pub on Aug. 5, 2008. They built their vision around local food, craft beer and live music, offering everything from Brewmaster’s dinners and Beer Olympics to themed dances and parking lot parties. Their dedication to serving Ontario-sourced beer was a difficult but worthwhile venture, and they often got involved in the Muskoka Beer Festival and other local events. Now, it’s bittersweet for the lifelong friends to step away from the business.

“After nearly 16 years, we two friends with matching griffin tattoos are moving on to focus on our other business ventures and our families,” said a statement provided by Dunlop and Corbeil. “We’re very excited for you to meet the new visionary for the pub, Ben Elling. Ben takes over May 15, and we wish him nothing but success as a pub operator.”

Ben Elling fell in love with the Griffin the second he walked in the door. He’s been dreaming of owning a bar for years, so when a friend got him in contact with Dunlop and Corbeil, the pieces fell into place.

“Curt and Jed have been really supportive, and I know they’ve poured their hearts into the Griffin Pub and the Town of Bracebridge over the last 16 years,” Elling said. “I’m really grateful for the support they’ve shown, both in the transition and the wonderful pub and customers that they’ve let me inherit.”

Most things, including the staff, will stay the same at the Griffin. Elling plans to continue the pub’s tradition of hosting live music and offering the best in local craft beer. General manager Kaila Pinsent is working on a range of new food and cocktail items for the summer menu, but customers will still be able to come in and get their favourite dishes.

Elling has worked as a bartender at the pub for roughly the last year, so he’s gotten to know the staff and just how fantastic they are. He said he’s fortunate to have them as the transfer of ownership approaches, and though he plans to put his own touch on things here and there, he’s excited to carry on what Corbeil and Dunlop started.

“We’re coming back at it with some renewed energy and some fresh ideas,” Elling said. “It should be nothing but pleasant changes for anyone coming into the pub.”

The Griffin Gastropub
Photo courtesy of Curt Dunlop

Dunlop and Corbeil won’t be behind the bar anymore, but they said customers can expect to see them strumming a guitar and enjoying a drink from the patron side of the gastropub. They can also plan to see them around town or at the Muskoka Natural Food Market, which they own and operate. 

The two of them started as childhood friends who played hockey and baseball together. In their 20s, they became regular party hosts, sparking the idea for a pub. A mutual love of music has characterized their friendship and their approach to business.

“Thursday nights quickly became our regular gig and we had a few different players join us over the years, most notably the incredibly talented Jamie Sherman, who became a fixture in the Griffin Pub Band just weeks after we took over in 2008,” they said. “We’ve played over 700 Thursday nights, and the pub has seen over 2,500 nights of live music under our watch.”

The Griffin Gastropub
Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil. Photo courtesy of Curt Dunlop

Corbeil and Dunlop want to extend their thanks to the town and to the staff they’ve had over the years. They’ve been able to witness marriage proposals, see families grow and make lifelong friendships, so it’s felt more like a family than a workforce.

Although they’re sad to see this adventure come to an end, they’re looking forward to spending more time with their families, especially since they’re the ones who allowed them to live their dream in the first place. Before the transition, the Griffin is hosting a Mother’s Day brunch and a kids’ open mic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 11, so they hope to see friendly faces at the pub this weekend and beyond.

“Thank you, Bracebridge, for supporting The Griffin Pub for the last 16 years that we’ve owned it and 26 years overall,” they said. “We hope that you will continue to show the love to this amazing little pub that’s hard to find but harder to forget.”


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