Owner of historic Cambie dive bar blames divorce for closure
CTV News Vancouver
Published Monday, June 24, 2019 2:30PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, June 24, 2019 7:02PM PDT
The oldest bar in Vancouver is closing its doors later this year, and the owner says his divorce is to blame.
Current and former patrons of The Cambie Pub have been lamenting news about its pending closure since word spread throughout the service industry last week, but there were few details about the circumstances.
On Monday, Sam Yehia, who has operated the historic dive bar since the 1980s, said the pricey downtown property was sold last month as part of his ongoing divorce proceedings.
If it were up to him, Yehia said the sale never would have happened.
"I got notification of the sale in May. There was nothing I could do to stop it," Yehia said in a statement.
"I'm beyond disappointed … It's an incredible loss to our community."
Ryan Birch, who has worked at the Cambie for the last five years told CTV News it has left staff disappointed.
"It's been a weird few days," he said.
He said he and his colleagues are, “taking it stride and understanding that it’s a complicated situation and no one’s got any control over it.”
The Cambie's liquor licence dates all the way back to 1897, making it the oldest pub in the city. According to its website, the building, which his located at Cambie and Cordova streets in Vancouver's trendy Gastown neighbourhood, was rebuilt
shortly after the 1886 fire that destroyed much of the city.
It reportedly sold for about $15 million.
Yehia described the bar as a cozy and inclusive venue where anyone from locals to international students could sit down for a cheap drink.
He said he's not sure what will happen to The Cambie, but that his primary concern is for the employees.
"Some of my staff have worked with me for 30 years. They are part of The Cambie legacy," he said. "They are like family to me and to each other. In fact some started new families after meeting here."
Birch told CTV News he met his girlfriend at the front desk of the hostel four years ago. They are moving in together in a few months.
"We always figured when we came back to Vancouver we’d always come here for a beer. You know the place where we met, but we’re not sure what the future will hold for that," he said.
Regular customers were also shocked by the news.
"Nothing can replace it," said Shane Vancaeseele who has been coming to the Cambie frequently after work for the last decade. "It’s a piece of the culture and the city."
The property was purchased by a local developer, Steven Lippman, who told CTV News he hasn't ruled out keeping the bar open – although he would probably like to have it cleaned up first.
"We're looking into the various options," Lippman said.
A news release from staff at The Cambie said that “the new owner of the building intends to do an extensive renovation” so the bar and hostel “will officially close its doors on November 30th 2019.”
With files from CTV Vancouver's Allison Hurst