Seventy years at the Shore Club

Chronicle Herald May 1, 2016

When Rhys Harnish was a young boy, he and his brother used to sneak into the crawlspace above the dance floor at the Shore Club on Saturday nights to watch the band play.

For hours, they would watch the guests dance, drink and be merry while his parents worked all night to keep it all running smoothly. Running Nova Scotia’s greatest dance hall is no easy task, but for the Harnish family, entertaining Nova Scotians is in their blood.

“This club has been in our family for 70 years now,” Harnish said in an interview. “It’s a real privilege to keep it going.”

Located in Hubbards, the Shore Club first opened its doors in 1946, and it opened this past Saturday for the 70th consecutive season. The club is open annually from May until November, and it’s always been a sanctuary for anyone looking for a good time.

Now in his 60s, Harnish inherited his father’s job and has been running the Shore Club since 1982.

“The anticipation is huge when we open every year. Folks are always ready for us,” he laughed. “We’ve got a beautiful hardwood floor, a big stage, and a nice, warm atmosphere. The first few nights of the season are always an exciting time.”

Famous for its lobster suppers and Saturday night dance parties, there’s no doubt the Shore Club is deeply woven into the cultural fabric of Nova Scotia. The dance floor has seen everything from the swing era of the 50s to the modern moves of today, but one thing always remains the same: on Saturday night, the Shore Club is the place to be.

“Pretty much every entertainer in Nova Scotia has been on our stage at some point,” said Harnish. “People don’t come here just to hang out. People come here to dance.”

Maritime music legends like Joel Plaskett and Matt Minglewood play at the Shore Club at least one Saturday every year. Other local bands like Dub Kartel and The Mellotones have become regulars as well.

“We’ve seen it all,” said Harnish. “We’ve had a live band every summer Saturday night since 1946, and that’s not going to change any time soon. It’s a lot of fun.”

Rasta Gumbo, a reggae-inspired blues band from Halifax, is playing two shows at the Shore Club this summer. Lead vocalist Bruce Vickery said the Shore Club is like nowhere he’s ever performed before.

“For young musicians growing up in Nova Scotia, playing at the Shore Club is like the pinnacle of success. You know you’ve made it if you get that call from Rhys asking for a show,” he said. “I remember I used to sneak in as a teenager to watch guys like Matt Minglewood and Sam Moon. The Shore Club is quite the experience.”

As an established musician now, Vickery said there’s no better venue in Nova Scotia to play.

“When I think of the Shore Club, I think of a hot, fun, sweaty night,” he said. “The dance floor is packed, everyone’s smiling, and the positive vibes are flowing. That’s what the Shore Club is all about. I love it.”

According to Harnish, the only thing that’s really changed at the Shore Club over the years is the number of people who walk in the door. The club started out as a supper hall and private convention centre, but eventually morphed into the lively party venue it is now.

“Our dances are always packed, and our lobster suppers are extremely popular,” he said. “We update the building when we need to, but always try and keep that original charm. The atmosphere here is unlike anywhere else in the province.”

The Shore Club’s 70th season is set to be a big one, and Harnish couldn’t be more excited. It’s a lot of work, but he said there are few things more rewarding than watching your family business thrive.

“My kids are both active in business,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll take this place over one day and become the next generation.”

The Shore Club hosts lobster suppers every night from Wednesday-Sunday, all summer long, with weekly dance parties on Saturday. For more information about the Shore Club and a full schedule of events, check out www.shoreclub.ca.

Source: Seventy years at the Shore Club