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New tenant fills major Creekside restaurant space

High-risk venture led by experienced Whistler ownership group


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Now that the wine glasses are clean and the plates are put away from Cornucopia there's time to reflect on an important event that was overshadowed by the successful weekend of celebrating wine and food.

The restaurant space formerly known as Players Chophouse and Morgan's before that opened its doors under a new name on Nov. 9: Doc Branigan's.

David Branigan and a small group of partners are now operating the large Creekside space.

He doesn't hesitate to confirm that more than a few people say he's nuts to be doing what he's doing.

According to him, he's been hearing that all his life. He started his hospitality career in the DJ booth and moved up the ladder from there with stints at the Longhorn, Black's and AlpenRock. He is working with General Manager Bernie McCaffrey, Scott Ainscough, Duane Klutesi, Sean Holmes and Zoo Keeny.

While some people are calling him crazy Branigan says he's coming into the venture with his eyes wide open and the ownership group knows it has a tough challenge ahead.

Branigan was originally looking for a place at Creekside where he could operate a small après space close to the lifts. He negotiated for the space where Zen operated but a deal couldn't be struck there so he says he started looking at other options.

"We couldn't have come in here at market rate," says Branigan of the move into the much larger space closer to the highway. "It just never would have happened."

He says the negotiations for the space were tough. According to Branigan, the Players Chophouse group is the landlord.

"Our overhead is real but it certainly is not market," he says.

With the lease rate currently being paid, Branigan says the pricing at Doc's is set for wide appeal.

"The primary concept is good whole food cooked from scratch with an Indian component and an Asian fusion component," says Branigan.

Consistent with current sustainability trends Doc Branigan's is using nearby suppliers like North Arm Farms for some of its menu items.

Branigan says he and his partners are aiming to be everything to everyone. During the day children are welcome and a full children's menu is in the works. As the day turns to night the atmosphere ages up with live music planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Live music at a food primary establishment like Doc Branigan's is unusual and Branigan notes that he has some liquor license challenges ahead.

Branigan points out that he will soon be coming to the community looking for support to change the liquor license at his establishment. He's going to be seeking a patron participation amendment to the license. At the moment, bands can play but nobody is allowed to dance.

You can have fun but to prevent the restaurant from being fined you had better stay in your chair.

If Doc Branigan's gets a patron participation amendment dancing will be allowed and the operating hours can be extended.

Branigan's vision of a come as you are operation includes menu items ranging from affordable classic comfort food to quality steak and wine. He says the operation is aiming to become part of the neighbourhood and connect with Creekside.

"If you are coming off the ski hill with your toque head and your goggle sunburn you should absolutely be comfortable coming in here," says Branigan. "If you want to come in at night for a nice rib eye steak and a high end bottle of wine we're able to offer that as well."

The high-end market knows the location because Players Chophouse and Morgan's were both aiming for that market so Branigan says he has to welcome that market. At the same time, the new operation is highlighting Asian fusion dishes like Hot Indian Chicken and Beef Curry and he is also offering value menu items for the hard-pressed Whistler residents who are feeling the tough economic challenges.

To address the high standards of the Players Chophouse clientele Branigan notes that former Chophouse Chef Scott Robertson is in charge of the kitchen.

Branigan and his team are using the tag lines like "premium venue, local pricing" and "food for your soul to lift your spirits" for their 364 days a year operation and he says they're open from 11:30 a.m. each morning.

Call Branigan and his ownership group crazy but think back to 1981 when an enthusiastic young Jack Evrensel rolled into Whistler with ambitious plans to open a restaurant so he could ski during the day and serve food at night. Some called him crazy in 1981. Now many call him a visionary.