Has COVID crushed the Granville Strip? Here's how the neighbourhood is changing
VANCOUVER -- The Granville Street strip is known for its bars and nightclubs, but lately, it's undergone a change. As places like Republic and Caprice shut down, new restaurants and venues are popping up in their stead.
It's been a tough time for restaurants, one of the industries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And it's been especially rough for newcomers to the scene who were preparing to open just as the province closed down.
Ron Cheng was supposed to open his first restaurant, Cold Tea, in March, but that launch was crushed by COVID-19.
"It's a little scary," he says.
His restaurant on the corner of Granville and Davie may look familiar. It replaced Tsui Hang, which closed its doors last fall. But the new name pays homage to the old landmark.
"Cold tea – it is a code word for beer inside of a teapot," Cheng says, which was served after hours. He even kept the old restaurant's teapots. But --
"Serving alcohol after hours – obviously we're not going to do that," Cheng says with a chuckle.
Instead, they've created their own beer-based cocktail concoction, inspired by Tsui Hang's cold tea. And the menu features shared plates of dim sum and fusion cuisine.
"We’re a modern Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant," Cheng says, adding they are starting to see more people come in. "It's slowly picking up steam. Every day has been a lot busier."
Aldo Velaj of Chit Chat Burger Bar had just got his business licence when the pandemic descended on British Columbia.
"Nobody could have predicted (this)," he says.
The vibe at Chit Chat, between Nelson and Smithe, is cool and upscale, serving burgers, grilled veggies and –
"Gelato style ice cream. Milkshakes, like fancy," Velaj says.
And then there's Jollibee. It's an international Filipino chain soon to open on Granville near Robson. As all these restaurants emerge, the old nightclubs are taking a backseat.
"I think we're going to see more and more of that kind of transformation on Granville Street," says Charles Gauthier with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. "We're starting to see a lot of our bars and restaurants opening up."
Colony, the bar that took over the Caprice space, is part of the move away from clubs in the neighbourhood. But The Roxy Cabaret, which has been on the strip since 1988, is planning to stay.
To add to the makeover, more patio space is coming soon, across the city. Parking spots on the Granville sidewalk may soon be converted to extended patio space for local businesses.
Movie juggernaut Cineplex will soon be opening The Rec Room, an entertainment centre with dining, games, and a concert venue, all in the Empire Theatre's old space. That entertainment complex will be able to host thousands of people and take up most of the block.
But the new restaurants will need patrons if they're going to survive.
"Now, more than ever, we need support and we need to make this street more attractive," Velaj says.
"We want to be part of that change," he says.