Tudor House Liquor Store

Revitalizing Esquimalt

It’s simply breathtaking—all angled glass, sweeping steel and cool concrete, a glittering modern framework for the vast array of fine wine, craft beer, and spirits inside. “From the architecture to our selection, everything in the store is unique,” says Bernie Dumas, owner and operator, with his wife Marta, of the Tudor House Liquor Store in Esquimalt.

It’s also as different as delicate Riesling is from inky vintage Port, compared to the original Tudor House that stood at the corner of Esquimalt and Admiral Roads. It was built in 1904 as a home for soldiers and sailors, back when Esquimalt was home base for the British Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet and later the Royal Canadian Navy. Back then, it had all the traditional design features of late Victoriana, including a turret that was an instantly recognizable landmark in the community.

In its later years, the original Tudor House became a beloved neighbourhood pub and the first privately owned liquor store in Esquimalt, before burning down on July 16, 2013.

“Four years ago this iconic and historic building was lost to a fire,” Dumas describes. “I would like to replace, God willing, what this amazing community lost four years ago, including the pub.”

Although the Dumases have worked in hospitality for years, Bernie began his career at the tender age of 15, training in the concrete industry. That gave him the inspiration for the coolly elegant look of the new Tudor House, which was designed by GBL Architects of Vancouver.

“My building has a very modern West Coast look,” he says. “The idea was to build for the future. Everything from our 12-foot-wide parking stalls to our 51/2-foot aisles were designed to add to our customers’ shopping experience. The goal was not to just create a retail space, but to also create a new experience for every single customer choosing to support our liquor store.” That includes the living wall of plants inside, which brings the outdoors in and creates a sense of warmth in the building.

And Tudor House Liquor Store has plenty of substance as well as all that style.

Their in-house sommelier, Jacques Lacoste, who won the 2011 sommelier of the year award at Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine, among other accolades, has hand-picked an impressive selection of wines that range from affordable, easy-drinking Tuesday night table wines to impressive cellar-able selections. He is on hand most days of the week, available to help customers choose a wine for dinner, plan their party selections, and work out perfect parings.

“We also have an amazing selection of whiskies, specifically single malts,” Dumas adds. “Our selection is now the biggest on Vancouver Island and we don’t plan on stopping there.”

Customers not only have well-educated staff to help them with their shopping, they also have the opportunity to explore and sample the world of wine, beer, and spirits around the wood-countered tasting bar in the centre of the main retail space downstairs.

“The tasting bar is a great way to explore products you typically wouldn’t try. We offer daily wine tastings with the option to try our rotating four reds and four whites,” Dumas explains. Meanwhile, the multi-functional event space upstairs can be used for a variety of purposes. Right now, it’s used for master classes, tastings and food pairings, often led by visiting winemakers, brewmasters and industry representatives. “Upstairs in our mezzanine we hold free scotch, wine and beer tastings as well as seminars on travel, food and life organized by my wife Marta.”

The property itself, with its grandfathered licensing, has the potential to be further developed for a variety of other uses, including a hotel and a newly built pub, if the owners wish. Even if they don’t, the liquor store, along with the new Red Barn Market nearby on Esquimalt Road, is already setting a trend for revitalization and renewal in the community.

With its friendly service, wide selection, and compelling design, Tudor House Liquor Store is offering an appealing alternative to the mega liquor stores opening in the area. To stay competitive, Dumas offers attractive pricing on a great selection of stock, and is also planning to offer a delivery service in the near future.

It’s an exciting new concept that has emerged from the ashes of the past, and one that offers inspiration to private retailers across the province. No turret required.