Saint John — It’s noon hour. Justin Dugas sits down at a table and orders a pint.
“IPA every time. I’m a hop head,” he says. The 34-year-old social media consultant whips open his laptop to work on some emails. It’s a typical daytime sight in the booming bar district of uptown Saint John. What is unusual is that this bar table is also Dugas’s home. “The table flips into a bed. And really, that’s it. I’m a minimalist, so I don’t believe in storage for things.”
It’s called bar-dwelling, the latest trend in real estate, targeted at Millennials.
“I’m a freelancer, so this just made sense,” Dugas says. “I spend most of my work days sitting in a bar or coffee shop anyway. So why not live here?” He now has the answer to that question.
As the day picks up, the bar becomes more crowded and loud. Dugas starts to look annoyed. “Guys, do you mind? Some of us live here. Thanks.” The patrons look confused.
The not-so-young-anymore professional is shocked to find his new apartment is infested with what anyone with common sense calls noise. By 9 p.m., the noise is so bad, Dugas can’t even FaceTime with his clients on the west coast. “Hey guys! I’m on a call. A work call! Have you ever heard of time zones?!” Dugas yells. The crowd just thinks he is shouting the lyrics to the sick beat just dropped by the DJ.
“I don’t get it. I’m paying good money to live here. You think people would show some respect. Not that how much I pay should make a difference; I supported Bernie [Sanders]. You know what I mean?” We don’t.
The entrepreneur behind bar-dwelling is Saint John’s own Lisa Gauthreaux. The idea came to Gauthreaux after she overheard a conversation at the soft opening of her latest microbrewery tenant. “They barely tapped the fist keg and I hear this guy say ‘Saint John can’t support this many bars. Which one do you think will go under?’ At the time, I brushed it off as good old Saint John cynicism, but the guy had a point. So I came up with this idea to further support my bar tenants.”
Units start at $1,600 per month under a one-year lease, with booths topping out the price range. Gauthreaux and the bar split the rental income. “Booth units have pillows with ‘YSJ’ printed on them and party lights that change colour,” she says. “This styling pad ought to get your date in the mood for some hot steamy action, but no overnighters please. It’s in the lease agreement.”
The next day, Dugas is back on his laptop, this time, looking for a new apartment. “This is a major downer. I called the police to complain about the noise,” he says. “They said they have bigger fish to fry; turns out they were busy busting my dispensary. Now what will I do? I have a prescription for trouble sleeping, paranoia and making poor life choices.”
The Manatee followed up with Dugas one week later to check out his new digs. Describing it as a nomadic micro-home, Dugas says he pays only $400 a month to Fero Waste Management to live in an alley at the centre of the same bar district he insists on living in. “I’m hoping the steel construction keeps the noise out,” he says.