Time to pour one out for our fallen friends - the coffee shops, ramen joints, and special occasion spots and more - that we said farewell to in Vancouver and surrounding communities in 2020.
As in any year, restaurant closures are plentiful. It's a challenging business with slim margins; a quick glance on Google Maps or around your own neighbourhood will affirm that addresses turn over, old buildings are razed for redevelopment, and concepts never take off all the time.
Small businesses in Vancouver also face sky-high rents, staffing shortages, and other bottom-line challenges that can easily derail the dream of running a restaurant in the city. Sometimes, when the lease is up or the whole block is getting knocked down for redevelopment, it's simply time to say goodbye.
2020, of course, did come with something extra for our pubs, pizzerias, and neighbourhood diners to contend with: A pandemic, and all its related restrictions, consumer habit changes, and financial repercussions. This was a damn tough year.
Though 2020 in the Vancouver restaurant scene will also go on record as "the one with the remarkable pivots" with shifts to take-out and delivery, innovative menu tweaks, all-weather temporary patios, grocery and packaged food offerings, and plenty more worth celebrating, it's still a year that saw a staggering number of closures.
This is not, by any means, a "complete" list, but a curated selection of nearly 50 significant closures representing a patchwork of back stories and reasons for hanging up the official "closed" sign. The list is a meld of decades-old veteran spots and places that didn't make it to the one-year mark. There are places that served not only food but the community in its truest definition, alongside ventures perhaps too ambitious in their scope. For many, the final meals were served without anyone knowing of their finality, as temporary closures due to COVID measures turned into permanent ones without the chance for the restaurant to let its customers come in to say goodbye.
Campagnolo & Campagnolo Upstairs
For many Vancouver diners, this double whammy announced in early August really hit a nerve. Campagnolo launched in 2008. Focused on rustic northern Italian food, the Main Street spot was for a time a flagship location, as Campagnolo expanded to include the Campagnolo Roma outpost in East Vancouver, which shuttered in late 2018 after seven years. Sadly, the closure of Campagnolo on Main also meant the end of its bar-restaurant sibling, Campagnolo Upstairs. The Upstairs venue, situated - literally - upstairs from Campagnolo, is beloved for its trim menu of simple but well-executed bar-style dishes, including their famous "Dirty Burger," all offered alongside well-made cocktails in an unpretentious space.
Gold Stone Bakery & Restaurant
After 33 years on Keefer Street in Chinatown, Gold Stone Bakery & Restaurant is no more. The beloved bakeshop and cafe business was first listed for sale in mid-June for $500,000, but after not managing to snag a buyer, the price was dropped a whopping $350,000 to $150,000 on Oct. 1. Gold Stone was a treasured spot for locals who took great comfort in its menu of Hong Kong diner-style fare. The closure of Gold Stone began back in the spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants and businesses to close their doors but its temporary shut down morphed into a permanent one.
Milestone's - Cambie
Parent company Recipe Unlimited shuttered the Milestones location at 2425 Cambie St this year, ushering in the end of an era for the Vancouver-born chain. Though Milestones got its start in 1989 in Vancouver, the brand now has no more locations within the city itself, with a new strategy focused on their suburban locations in the region.
The Pear Tree
This award-winning fine dining restaurant in Burnaby brought its nearly 23-year run to an end in mid-August. The Pear Tree was owned and operated by husband and wife duo Chef Scott and Stephanie Jaeger, who said they had been in the midst of lease negotiations for their Burnaby Heights restaurant prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, then found themselves facing an over 40% rent increase, their landlord's addition of a 'demo clause' for year one, and what the couple say are "a number of other unworkable clauses." The Jaegers say they intend to continue to offer in-home catering, until they are able to set out on a new dining establishment venture.
Director Uwe Boll's fine dining experiment came onto the scene guns blazing, so to speak, and did its best to ruffle feathers among the status quo - all while hoping to get diners to embrace elegant German fare - for the duration of its tenure at 1 West Cordova in Gastown. Ironically, Boll had long railed against "best of" lists and awards (having been not honoured) for years, and just this month Bauhaus was named Vancouver Magazine's gold winner in the European category of the annual (and delayed) Restaurant Awards. But back in March, a dispute with their landlord led to the restaurant's immediate closure; the contentious and litigious nature of the closure made it a stick one to report on, and the timing was brutal, as it was just as the city was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, the restaurant's Facebook page is still active, so we can keep up with Boll.
The last glasses of fino and cava were drank, and the final plates of patatas bravas and diablos Españoles were eaten, and we didn't even know it. Gastown's The Sardine Can announced in mid-May it would not be re-opening after an eight-year run.
Dubh Linn Gate - Vancouver
The Irish pub - a sibling of the original location in Whistler - filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 20. Dubh Linn Gate announced their temporary closure in mid-March, as the coronavirus pandemic forced bars, restaurants, and other businesses to immediately cease operating. It was a day shy of St. Patrick's Day, which is typically a major occasion for the venue. The pub did not re-open.
It was a brief run for Harbour550, the upscale Mediterranean-Asian restaurant that launched at the end of October and was closed for good before the end of November. Harbour550 was the concept that took the place of Verre, which itself was shuttered without notice in September. Though the opening team from Verre had long since fractured, some of its original owners carried on to create Harbour550. The restaurant took its name from the location in Coal Harbour at 550 Denman Street.
Blossom Dim Sum & Grill
This summer, the ambitious and high-concept modern Chinese-meets-Pacific northwest restaurant Blossom Dim Sum & Grill would have marked one year in business in Vancouver's West End. However, following what was to be a temporary closure in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurant never re-opened. The sprawling 6,000 square-foot space seated at least 180, not counting the sweet corner patio that seats 40 people. In past lives it has been a massive Moxie's, an Allstar Wings & Ribs, and the short-lived Second Floor Eatery & Bar.
After a seven-year run, Chinatown's Bestie closed up shop on Oct. 4. Bestie opened in June 2013, and was the venture of buds Clinton Mcdougall and Dane Brown, who brought their "friendly little sausage parlour" to Chinatown and drew raves for their hand-cut fries, brats, pretzel boards, and currywurst - a staple German street food.
The curious experiment launched in 2015 announced in mid-March it was shuttering for good. Royal Dinette was the initial project of Vancouver farm-to-table chef Dave Gunawan and the Donnelly Group, whose Blackbird Pub operates upstairs at the Dunsmuir Street location. Donnelly's role was said to be minimal, allowing Gunawan to develop a seasonally-driven menu showcasing sophisticated techniques, hand-made pasta, preserves, and an exciting bar and wine program. However, Gunawan and Donnelly parted ways and the restaurant saw its concept remain generally upheld, with several chef shuffles.
The end came in February of this year for Mamie Taylor's. The southern-fuelled "Modern American"-style restaurant in Chinatown, known for their hearty comfort eats, cocktail program, and taxidermy decor launched in 2013. Mamie Taylor's was known for its refined plates of eats like fried chicken and waffles, grilled pork chops, shrimp and grits, and their signature "Ham Grenades," as well as a stellar bar program and weekend brunch, and events like holiday pig roasts, and participation at high-profile Vancouver gatherings like Brewery and the Beast.
Au Petit Cafe
A longstanding staple in Vancouver's Vietnamese dining scene brought things to an end after 25 years this spring. The restaurant was a next-generation iteration of a similar one run by the Trinh family in Chinatown in the 1980s. Do Minh Trinh, son of the founders, ran Au Petit Cafe for the last several years. Known for dishes like beef stew noodle soup, curry beef stew, and banh mi, the pink hole-in-the-wall Au Petit Cafe was a go-to for many in the neighbourhood and the city.
Balila, a Middle Eastern hummus-focused restaurant, opened up at 47 West Hastings in early 2018. The business closed its doors at the end of September, not only because of the ongoing pandemic but also because "the conditions of the area are getting wors[e] by the day." Balila's operators said they "fear for our customers' health and safety as well as [that] of our team members and partners," at the Hastings location, and added the problems are "evident to the naked eye."
A massive fire decimated several businesses on Main Street near Broadway this October, among them Frenchies, the diner specializing in Montreal smoked meat and other Quebecois comfort eats, like poutine.
After 21 years, The Reef wrapped up their run serving Caribbean eats recently. Located at 4172 Main Street, owner Simon Cotton said: “We have been proud to serve Vancouver a modern taste of the islands over these many years.”
The Metropole Pub
The Metropole, located on Abbott St in Gastown, posted their closing notice on Instagram just a couple of days after B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the immediate closure of nightclubs and banquet halls, as well as capping hours for liquor sales at bars, pubs, and restaurants.
Back in March of 2018, things got a little strange at 1812 Commercial Drive, the longtime home of Falconetti's, a popular bar-restaurant in the neighbourhood. Passers-by, V.I.A. readers, and even Google said the place had suddenly shut down for good. Then things got a little murky, and while some close to the project claimed the closure was temporary, even when the did open their doors again (well over a year and a half later), it still wasn't super clear what had happened or what was going on. In early 2020, Falconetti's seemed to be rallying, however, until the pandemic forced them to close up. By June, there were drinks being slung once again at the storied bar (with patrons maybe a bit too close to each other for everyone's COVID-era comfort, by several reports), and then...it was done. Folks, Falconetti's is officially closed for good now. In its place is a new concept called Social, with new owners.
The Blue Martini
Martinis, southern Italian food, and a New Orleans vibe - with live music - was the calling card of the Blue Martini in Kitsilano. Now the venue at 1516 Yew Street has quietly packed it in, with a new tenant (and a very different concept) moving in; the space is set to become Juanita, an all-day casual restaurant from the same people behind North Vancouver's Lift Bakery.
Federico's Supper Club
Sadly, the last drinks, dinners, and dancing were enjoyed without guests even knowing at this Italian restaurant and nightclub on Commercial Drive. The Supper Club announced in April that after 22 years they were permanently closed - though they'd shut the doors in mid-March, following directives from officials regarding restaurant operations and the spread of COVID-19. Owner Federico Fuoco said the closure was a result of a number of profound financial challenges compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, along with an uncooperative landlord, and the high cost of doing business in Vancouver.
Tuc Craft Kitchen
At the end of August, Gastown eatery Tuc Craft Kitchen shut down after seven years in business. Owners Colin Ross, James MacFarlane and Roy Flemming opened up the 60 W Cordova Street eatery in 2013, which quickly became well-loved for its warm, inviting atmosphere and rustic, locally sourced farm-to-table fare, featuring menu items like pork belly crackling, burgers, elk carpaccio, chicken & waffles, Shepard's Pie and mac n' cheese.
After 40 years, East Vancouver's Felicia's said goodbye this year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Known for their kitschy decor and hearty Italian fare, Felicia's at 2492 East Hastings was a beloved local staple for many.
The Holy Crab
Storm Crow Tavern
Count among the coronavirus-caused losses in Vancouver Commercial Drive's misfit haven and "nerd bar," Storm Crow Tavern, which announced in April they were packing it in for good. Known for being a fun spot to geek out on board games, themed drinks and eats, and take part in special events tailored to Sci-Fi lovers and cosplay crowds, Storm Crow's Tavern had been welcoming "oddballs and bohemians" for over seven years at that location. The lease was up, and they opted to not keep going.
La Pentola, the critically-acclaimed Northern Italian restaurant on the ground floor of Yaletown's boutique Opus hotel, shuttered in July after an eight-year run. The restaurant, and adjoining Opus Bar, were operated by Safe and Sound Entertainment (Bar None, Hello Goodbye). La Pentola's social media accounts have now been flipped over to those for Capo & the Spritz - that's the new pizza and cocktail concept moving in, and it's the work of Vancouver's Autostrada team.
The Kitsilano chocolate-maker announced in the fall of 2019 they would be closing up shop after 27 years in 2020, though, as owner Greg Hook noted this spring, the COVID-19 crisis was not in the picture at the time. They wound down operations in April, in a different manner than initially imagined. Chocolate Arts was known firstly for their chocolates that made use of regional ingredients and drew inspiration from global flavours.
The Tuck Shoppe
The Portly Chef
A staple of the past near-decade in North Vancouver served up its last meals early this year, as The Portly Chef closed its doors on Jan. 26. The Portly Chef was the project of longtime local chef Jeff Batt and his wife and business partner, restaurant general manager Emily Caulfield. Batt passed away in 2019, Caulfield carried on running the restaurant, honouring the legacy of its founder through seasonal, well-crafted menus and an inviting energy. The Portly Chef served dinner as well as a Sunday brunch. Over its nearly eight-year tenure on Lonsdale at 12th, The Portly Chef was a local favourite and had many regulars.
Situated on a slice of prime False Creek waterfront real estate at 1010 Beach Avenue, M8 opened in the spring of 2019. Considered by fans of its elegant, contemporary fare as a true hidden gem, M8 was known for its upscale interior, great views, innovative tasting menu, and weekend brunch. The restaurant was the venture of chef Xin (Frank) Mao, who appeared on Top Chef Canada 8. During the spring and summer, M8 was open partially, including on its revamped patio, which debuted in July. However, by early September, the restaurant was closed permanently, with Mao moving abroad to take on a gig at a culinary school.
What's Up? Hot Dog!
Known for their hot dog-centric menu, punk rock music, beer, and vegan "wing" nights, What's Up? Hot Dog! in Hastings-Sunrise has officially closed. Already up and running in its place at 2481 E Hastings - with much of the same WUHD staff - is an all-vegan concept called Bad Apple. They've made some interior and menu tweaks, but you'll still find a similar vibe as well as all those vegan "wings" (made with cauliflower), waffle fries, and even hot dogs.
After a fun-filled five-year run, Timber, the Canadiana-themed gastropub at Robson and Jervis, turned off the lights in March - with the timing aligned near-perfectly to the COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants in the province. The restaurant and bar, a sibling to fellow Listel Hotel operation Forage, did manage to go through with its plans to gently renovate and revamp, opening in the spring as "BeSide Forage."
The White Spot - Georgia & Cardero
It's almost time for this longstanding White Spot in Coal Harbour to meet the wrecking ball, and closing day was at the end of November. The property at 1616 West Georgia, which includes the adjacent vacant lot, sold for a whopping $245 million in 2017. Plans for redevelopment are for a pair of 38-storey highrise buildings featuring a four-storey podium linking the towers. In 1982, Shato Holdings, run by the Toigo family, purchased the White Spot. When they sold the W Georgia and Cardero location three years ago it was the region's largest land transaction of 2017.
Located at 572 Davie Street, The Ramenman shuttered this spring, making way for an exciting new pop-up to permanent venture called Noah's Cafe. The ramen joint had actually relocated from its original spot on Bidwell to replace Juno, a long-standing sushi concept from the ramen shop's owner.
In early 2018 Ramen Taka opened up at 841 Bidwell (in the old Ramenman spot), and a year later their Richmond location at Aberdeen Centre followed. Unfortunately, on Aug. 24, Ramen Taka revealed their original Bidwell restaurant would be closing up due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the business.
It was an abrupt ending for Finfolk, the Nordic-inspired beer and bites spot in East Van which closed on short notice in March. Finfolk launched in April 2019, offering platters of meats smoked in-house, about a half-dozen rotating pizzas with veggie, meat, or seafood toppings, and fresh oysters. Having stuck it out just under a year, the small spot was among the earliest casualties of the COVID-19 crisis in the local restaurant scene.
Vancouver's Musette Caffe was a beacon for cyclists and coffee lovers, and those who count themselves in both categories, too. The Burrard Street cafe announced in mid-January they would close down for good on February 29, 2020. Musette's owner Thomas Eleizegui first opened Musette on Burrard at Drake, then closed that location down at the end of 2015 to move to a fresh new spot, also on Burrard, which opened at the start of 2017. Previously, Eleizegui had a part in the Chinatown cyclists cafe on Pender, which was last known as The Message Cafe before shutting down ."What’s next? Not sure, but there will be a next chapter I promise," added Eleizegui in the closure announcement for Musette.
Commercial Drive's Cabrito Tapas brought its five-year run to a close at the start of April. The Spanish spot had briefly pivoted, offering sales of several grocery and deli items and take-out dishes like paella meals, however, the restaurant opted to pack it in altogether.
Open since 2012, the award-winning Thai restaurant Jitlada at Broadway and Hemlock closed up this summer as a result of impending redevelopment. "The area is in the process of redevelopment and the building that our restaurant resides in will eventually be knocked down," explained the owners, adding: "Regarding our future plans, we are likely to take a break from the business. Should new opportunities arise, we will be sure to let you know. Stay tuned!"
What a roller coaster year for this small but mighty taco-centric casual spot in Kits. "Our business is nearly bankrupt and it is with great sadness that we have to close until the City of Vancouver grants us a liquor license," reps for the restaurant announced at the end of January. The squeaky wheel got the grease, however, and within a couple of weeks they were back up and running. Sadly, as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March, it spelled the final curtain for Cantina Pana.
Gigi's Pizza & Spaghetti House
This red-sauce Italian joint was among the few spots you could go to in Vancouver for a meal after midnight. Located at 189 West Broadway, Gigi's was open for 30 years and was a neighbourhood landmark, thanks to its arched windows, signage, and plenty of neon. Once part of a local mini-chain, as of the spring this year, Gigi's was no more.
The poutinerie at 1011 Granville Street is no more. Frites was known for their Belgian fries and double-layered poutine in decadent ingredient combos. Taking its place: La Loteria, which will feature Mexican street food from Monterrey like tortas, tostadas, and tamales.
Shaolin Noodle House
Located at 656 West Broadway, Shaolin specialized in hand-pulled noodles and were known in particular for their noodles with lamb. Diners were able to watch the noodles being made if they opted to dine-in, but the Chinese restaurant was also a big draw for the office dwellers nearby for take-out, especially at lunch. Shaolin shuttered this spring, without any announcement on social media or their website. They've now been replaced by A. Bento, a Taiwanese-Chinese casual restaurant.
The Charles Bar
The sports-centric bar-restaurant and nightclub in the iconic Woodwards development in Gastown called it quits in early 2020 after a decade. In addition to being a well-known spot for drinks and watching the game, The Charles Bar offered brunch service, a full menu, and a nightclub setting later in the evening for the partiers.
Ramen Koika added this second outpost of their noodle shop in spring 2018, four years after launching their original location on Davie. Located at 1479 Robson Street in what's referred to as "Ramen Row," Koika faced some stiff competition in the area. But as sometimes happens with ramen spots, when one exits, another one slides in, and that's exactly the case here: Menya Itto - the "King of Tsukemen" - is moving in.
After four years of serving up their modern take on family recipes of Vietnamese fare, Yaletown's House Special shook things up this summer by rebranding as a second outpost of their popular sibling concept Do Chay. As an ode to one of House Special’s most popular items, Uncle Hing’s Chicken Wings, Do Chay Yaletown has an exclusive dish on its menu made with oyster mushrooms and Do Chay’s Ish Sauce (vegan fish sauce).
As 2020 got underway, the 10th anniversary of Richmond's L'Opera Patisserie was shaping up to be a banner year. The family-run bakery and tea spot was preparing to launch a revamped menu that would feature fondue dishes, perfect for sharing, in the springtime. However, as we all know now, 2020 had a few surprises in store for us - including L'Opera Patisserie closing down for good in mid-August. However, we've been assured L'Opera will carry on, just not in the same physical retail space.