Chambar restaurant celebrates 10 years of trailblazing dining
First-time owners Nico and Karri Schuerman chose a risky location on the edge of the Downtown Eastside
When Nico and Karri Schuermans opened Chambar at the corner of Beatty and Dunsmuir in 2004, they took a risk on a neighbourhood that hadn't quite developed yet and a casual fine dining trend that was still dominated by a few chains.
Ten years later, the success of the popular restaurant has proven that not only did they pull it off, but they also managed to inspire a generation of cooks, bartenders, and general managers do the same.
Now in addition to the restaurant they operate a cafe and cooking school on the same 500 block of Beatty Street.
But Karri recalls that legacy was just a dream when they first started off, opening their first restaurant featuring innovative Belgian cuisine on the edge of Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside.
"It was hard to get investment, because we were young...[we were a] first-time restaurant, so we were blacklisted with banks and trying to get people to invest in what was then considered Downtown Eastside. It was pretty difficult, but we managed to pull it off".
Tannis Ling of Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie worked for five years there as a bartender.
"I probably had the best time of my life working in [that] restaurant. It was a great learning experience, it was the first restaurant that was like that, that I ever worked in. They valued fun and they wanted us to have a personality, and express ourselves freely, and not be this robot."
Tannis Ling wasn't not the only successful Chambar alumni. Staff from the restaurant went on to open several popular eateries in the area, including L'Abattoir, Meat & Bread, Calabash, Save-on Meats, The Diamond.
Josh Pape, the co-owner of Wildebeest, used to manage the bar at Chambar. He says Nico and Karri's success encouraged him to carve out his own path in the neighbourhood a few blocks away at 120 West Hastings Street.
"Where Chambar opened, there was nothing on that block originally. And they were pretty smart to have the foresight to see that they were well set-up for the future. We took a similar model, with Wildebeest, of investing in a block that wasn't really developed yet. Hopefully that works out for us in the long run as well."
Things are not standing still at Chambar after 10 years either. Nico and Karri are moving the restaurant to the building next door, which is currently under renovation. The two-level space will have nearly 300 seats, a patio, and rooms for private functions. It is expected to open in July.