The Watch (called after the Hugh MacLennan novel of the same name) was originally opened by Joe and Bethany Gurba in fall 2017; Gray (former executive chef at Brooklyn Warehouse, Battery Park Beer Bar) took over ownership of the restaurant in May 2018. Last year, it was named Canada's Best New Bar of 2018 by enRoute magazine.
"It is crazy, in a way, that you can be number one on a national stage and nine months later shut your doors. It goes to show the uncertainty and variability of this industry," says Gray. "It's crazy to go through that high-high and that low-low, but it comes with the territory."
Gray says in the end, the closure came down to finances.
"It's not ever the way people want their business to end. Those are the cards we were dealt, and we couldn’t keep up," he says. "You can speculate all day long about what went wrong but there’s just so many moving parts, I have no idea what happened really."
The Watch That Ends The Night's closure will also signify the end of a chapter in Gray's life—his culinary career. He is currently studying to be an addictions counsellor and has plans to focus his lens on the restaurant industry.
"With my personal struggles with addiction and the process of recovery thus far—it has been an incredible process—I want to give back the gift of sobriety and recovery I was given." Gray, an addict in recovery, is nine months sober. "I want to help others who are in the shoes I was in when I was 20, 22 or 25. I can’t help but think if there was something for me then it might have prevented a few things."
Gray says The Watch's journey was a fantastic one from day one, and that despite its ending he looks back on it with pride and gratitude—for the staff, suppliers, partons and supporters.
"We’ve learned a lot and made tons of great memories there. We achieved great things and tried to push the envelope, and we had an incredible team—now, people who’ve come and gone and people who remained until the end. It’s been a wild ride, for sure, but a great one nonetheless."