Heart & Crown - The Bradley Family

Heart & Crown - The Bradley Family

Heart & Crown

Owners: The Bradley Family
Neighbourhood: Byward Market, Downtown
11 Pubs, 5 locations

Interview + Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio

Tell us a bit about the passion that directed you into the pub business.

Although I am passionate about the pub industry, what really drove me was the need to make a living. Coming from Ireland in the 70s, there weren’t many opportunities or jobs. Canada seemed like a place where I would have a chance to create a good future for myself. The pub business was a great way to share my culture with Canada, in Ottawa, the town I made my home.

You have undergone a number of expansions with Heart & Crown Pubs are there anymore in the future?

It’s always a consideration!

What makes Heart & Crown different than other pubs?

Each of our pubs has their own character. One thing I try to keep consistent throughout is our food and hospitality. The Irish are known for their sense of humour, and I’ve always made it my mission to keep the Irish “craic” going.  (Definition of “craic”-pronounced ‘crack’-Collins Dictionary: If you are talking about something that you did and you say 'the craic was great', or 'it was a good craic', you mean that you had a really good time, especially because everyone was talking, joking, and laughing)

Ottawa being home to many Irish settlers, I’ve always tried to keep the Irish authenticity alive in the capital. Actually, most of our furniture and bars were made in Ireland and shipped over here.  When the Irish are homesick, they tend to gather in our pubs.

Our original location in the ByWard Market is particularly unique. We started off as just a 60 seat restaurant on the corner of Clarence St and Parent Ave in 1992. Over the years we gradually knocked a few walls down, which led to 5 wee pubs in one. It’s been nicknamed Ottawa’s “Irish Village”. This location now has 4 street addresses!  

I should also mention, we are one of the few pubs in town that offers live music 7 nights a week at ByWard and 3 nights a week at the other locations.  

When you aren't managing pubs and you have a day off what do you do for fun?

I like to travel. Particularly back home to see my family. Us Irish can get quite homesick, ya know! I like to do the odd vegetable gardening. My wife, Michèle, does the flowers.

photography  @rothbauerphoto

photography @rothbauerphoto

How many people do you serve in the Byward Market on St. Patrick's Day?

This year, at our ByWard location we served close to 5000 customers. All locations combined, 11,500. That’s about half the population of my hometown back in Ireland! (Omagh, Co Tyrone)

How has being situated in the capital been an ideal location for Heart & Crown pubs?

First of all, I love Ottawa! Not too big, not too small…just right! I had been living in the capital for 16 years, when I opened our first location in the Market in 1992. I had already made this city my home and started my family here. Before I began opening pubs, I had been running a construction company here in Ottawa for about 10 years. One of the things that drove me to open up in ’92 was my desire to recreate a local Irish pub, like I was used to back home. I felt that was lacking in our capital at the time.


How many people does Heart & Crown pubs employ?

At the height of summer, when all patios are in full swing, between all of our locations, we employ about 450 people!

As a business owner what keeps you up at night?

I think any business owner will agree, that when you’re putting your livelihood (and your family’s) into other people’s hands, especially in the early days, you can’t help but be a bit stressed. You can’t be there 24/7, so you need to learn to trust your employees. It took time, but I eventually found the right people to help me run my operation smoothly. Good staff can really boost your confidence and can help you relax a little. In this business, once you think you have seen it all, something new pops up. Over the years, I’ve learned that you just need to remain calm. It’s the nature of the biz. In the beginning the sleepless nights were much more frequent, but I don’t have too many nowadays.

For someone who hasn't been to Heart & Crown what is the favourite menu item they should order?

I love the Fish and Chips. It’s our most popular dish, but my personal favourite is our Shepherd’s Pie. I’m glad we only have 3 more questions to go, because now I’m starving!

In "the Snug" a cozy pub in the ByWard Heart & Crown, it is apparently not uncommon for patrons to break out in song. Have you ever had a famous musician or celebrity get involved?

We’ve had a few celebrities walk through our doors, and many have been known to break out in song. Some of our celeb sightings include Dan Aykroyd, John McDermott (Celtic singer), The Chieftans (Ireland), Tommy Flannigan (Sons of Anarchy), Kieffer Sutherland, Jesse Palmer, Tyson Furey (boxer). Comedians Jeff Ross and Jim Jeffries have also graced us with their presence on separate occasions. We’ve had Great Big Sea perform on our McGintey’s stage. One night, Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys, was in drinking. He voluntarily got up on the front stage to belt out a few of his hits. He was dressed in basketball shorts and a plain grey t-shirt, like he had just come from the gym! Ha!
Stroll through the Snug on a Friday evening, and you’re likely to hear a few tunes sung by our regular customers. They’re the real stars after all! 😊


Family is one of the most important things in life. How do you make sure in such a busy industry (and while working together) that you still make time for each other outside of pub hours?

A family that drinks together, sticks together lol. Right?!
All joking aside, we are a very close family, so it’s not too difficult to make time for each other. Especially now that I have a granddaughter, we try to spend as much time together as possible. We meet for dinner regularly.
It can be challenging to work with family everyday, but we make it work.  
Even though the “kids” are grown up, we still try to take family trips together when we can.

What is your most memorable achievement in building Heart & Crown?

I like to say It’s not about making money, it’s about making friends. Although I’m not complaining about the money lol.
It was a lot of hard work to get where we are, but I had a lot of fun doing it.  
I have to say the most memorable achievement is all the friends I’ve made along the way. Without all the relationships we have built over the years, we wouldn’t be where we are today.


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