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Remembering Diamond Almas, former owner of the iconic Seven Seas restaurant

The longtime North Vancouver restaurateur and community member died suddenly in November at age 84

To bring fresh fish to the diners of North Vancouver, one man charted the Seven Seas.

Famed for his floating restaurant on Ferry No. 5, which operated at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue for 42 years, Diamond Almas died suddenly on Nov. 5 at the age of 84.

A respected restaurateur and active member of the North Shore community, Diamond was also a devoted family man, who is survived by his six children, two grandchildren and great granddaughter.

Among the biggest moments in Diamond’s career was his induction into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2008. It was a very exciting moment for him, as he was a gentle person who would never speak or promote himself in that way, said his daughter Mairzee Almas.

“It was a little overwhelming for him to have so much love and support thrown at him from an area that he didn’t realize how he had impacted the community. And so having lots of people expressing their gratitude and their love for him was very wonderful,” she said. “His heart was very, very filled by it.”

At the age of 20, married and with his first kid on the way, Diamond opened the Seven Seas Seafoods restaurant with the help of his uncle, Jim, who ran the popular King Neptune Restaurant in New Westminster, and his father, Harry, who opened the Hippocampus Restaurant on Denman Street in downtown Vancouver.

Diamond was next in line to carry on the family legacy of serving ocean-caught cuisine under the glow of charming neon signs.

Describing himself during his Hall of Fame speech as “full of vinegar” at the time the restaurant opened, Diamond took on the challenge of turning a decommissioned passenger ferry – which used to take travellers from downtown to North Vancouver – into a thriving family restaurant and community staple. After leasing it from the city in perpetuity, the Seven Seas opened for business in 1959.

Mairzee Almas said she grew up inside that restaurant. She remembers a prank her dad used to play on her and her siblings.

“Downstairs in the bilge areas, you could often hear sounds of chains.... Really it was Cates Tugs next door, making all sorts of sounds underneath the water,” she said. “And dad used to scare us when we were little kids and say, ‘Ooo, it’s Long John Silver, Long John Silver lives under here.”

Occasionally school kids would come on the boat for tours, and he would play the same prank on them. “He loved kids. And he was a real prankster.”

Mairzee also remembers her brothers jumping off the boat into the ocean during the summer. “The water was a lot cleaner back in the ’70s.”

“We were all working there as teenagers,” she said. While she and most of her siblings would eventually move on to other careers, one of her brothers stayed at the Seven Seas until its last day.

Restaurant owner also served as alderman

Outside of his beloved floating eatery, Diamond was well-known for being active in the surrounding community. He ran for and served as alderman in both the city and district of North Vancouver, for one term each. The family grew up in a house on Grand Boulevard, and Diamond would later move to Upper Lynn Valley during his second marriage.

Following a fire at the restaurant, the Seven Seas shuttered for good in 2001. The news devastated her father, Mairzee said.

“As you can imagine, his whole life was in this restaurant,” she said. “He was always saddened by that … but he was resilient.”

While Diamond never quite got over the loss of his business, he moved ahead, and would transition to a career as a security supervisor for a casino company.

After his death in November, his phone was still buzzing with messages from friends, some of whom were former employees at the Seven Seas. It was difficult to respond to everyone, telling them her dad had passed away. But the loving words she got back warmed her heart.

One message was from a former employee of nearly three decades.

“Diamond, he was great human, a great boss. Mr. Almas, senior, and Mrs. Almas and all of Diamond’s children, we were just one big family at the Seven Seas, and my family is forever grateful to have gotten my first job with your family for 27 good years…. And may your dad and my boss, rest in peace. Love you all, Albert Williams.”

A celebration of life was held for Diamond at Mountain View Cemetery on Dec. 9.

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