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I was recently dispatched to The Ship & Anchor’s patio to interview people on behalf of Tourism Calgary. Secretly I was hoping to solve the mystery of both how The Ship has remained so popular for so long, and how their patio is always bumping – to be clear; this is one of Calgary’s biggest, and busiest patio.
According to Google, people spend an average of 1 – 2.5 hours here and some people have been regulars to this institution for years. I settled in on that patio, ready to people watch with the best of them, and to chat with anyone who I could convince to talk to me, answer a few questions about The Ship, and agree to let me take their photo. Turns out they all think you should check out The Ship & Anchor.
Here’s a few people’s stories I discovered on an afternoon of people watching at The Ship.
These two met at Femme Wave in November and bonded over their love of live music. Blair, a recent transfer from Edmonton asked people for recommendations for the best place to get a beer, and The Ship got a resounding endorsement. She confessed to spending time on the patio in drizzling rain. Morgan first attended during Bermuda Shorts Day (touted as the biggest University of Calgary end of term celebration) with her older sister, who introduced her to new drinks and people. They stayed for hours that day. Both women love how close The Ship is to the bike path, which they often utilize to get there for live music events, yam fries, and some of the best people watching in the city.
While participating in some of my own people watching from the vantage point of the patio, I saw a guy walking down the street carrying a bunch of helium filled balloons. I stopped him on the street, thinking perhaps he was carrying a surprise for someone else. Turns out it was Travis’s birthday. The balloons were from his parents, delivered to his work as they live in Ontario. He asked me to take a photo that he could send to his mom. While Travis has only been in Calgary for a few short years, his best Ship memory was their Christmas Eve party, which hosted tons of people, with a real sense of community and camaraderie.
Both work in the service industry, and conduct most of their meetings at The Ship (I’m telling you, this patio is magical). They agree that The Ship is unpretentious, welcoming to people from all walks of life, great for after work beers, people watching, and a place you’re likely to run into someone you know. Scott’s funniest memory dates back approximately 15 years when a buddy of his ordered a Cosmo, and the bartender dusted off a cocktail recipe book to make the drink.
Ali started going to The Ship just out of high school, going with a group of friends, and became a regular a few years after that. She went regularly for almost a decade, and met many great people, and those friendships have stood the test of time much like The Ship itself. While she has many fond memories of British New Year’s, live bands, dancing, people watching on the patio – it’s also where she met Matt (also a regular) who she’s since married. In fact, there are a couple others from her group of friends who met their future spouses there, too. Still to this day, the moment she walks in and smells the familiar smells of beer and nachos, she immediately feels both at home and that it’s the start of a good night. “There isn’t a night I go that I don’t run into at least one person I know, and no night out is complete without a stop at The Ship.”
Rhiannon has been a server at The Ship for a year after being a regular fixture, and offered this piece of patio trivia: “customers choose if it’s patio weather.” That’s worth repeating; customers, not the staff or management choose if it’s patio weather. And Calgarians are a hearty bunch. It may not feel like typical patio weather to some, but swing by The Ship on a relatively mild day, and I bet people will be out there, sipping beer, and eating nachos or fried pickles. The staff is in it together – a big family that looks out for each other. Think you’re competitive? Try showing up for Punk Rock Bingo, it’s so cutthroat someone tried bribing her with $100 for a table to play.
As we collected our things to leave, the wind had picked up, and it was threatening to rain, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to abandon their spot on the coveted patio. If you’re a local, or visiting Calgary this spring/summer, The Ship should definitely be on your list of places to spend an afternoon.
Check out Far and Wide’s visit to The Ship and Anchor Pub in our 17th episode here.