British Columbia

As Elbow Room closes, charity remembers the 34,000 meals cafe provided for people living with HIV

As Vancouver's beloved Elbow Room Cafe prepares to close on Tuesday, A Loving Spoonful remembers all that it contributed.

Beloved restaurant raised $123,000 for A Loving Spoonful over the years

Elbow Room owner Patrick Savoie said it's been a 'pretty emotional and pretty busy' few days, as the restaurant prepares to close after 35 years. (Tamara Rahmani/CBC)

As Vancouver's beloved Elbow Room Cafe prepares to close on Tuesday, a local charity that benefited from its generosity over the years is remembering all that it contributed.

A Loving Spoonful is a volunteer-driven society that provides free meals to people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to executive director Lisa Martella, the society was able to provide more than 34,000 meals thanks to donations collected by the Elbow Room Cafe since 1994.

"They will forever be in our hearts. We are truly grateful," Martella said.

The restaurant first opened in 1981 and has been in its current location for 25 years. (CBC)

The Elbow Room Cafe has long endeared patrons by serving them a side of sass with their meals — if you ask for a refill on your coffee, you'll likely be told to get it yourself. 

True to its character, it developed a unique system for gathering donations — if you couldn't finish your breakfast, you'd be asked to make a contribution. Over the years, the cafe raised more than $123,000.

"I remember I went in and ordered a meal — and, of course, their breakfasts are just huge and I did not finish my meal and I had to pull a $10 bill out of my wallet," said Martella.

A gathering place

Martella said A Loving Spoonful was a natural charity partner for the restaurant as it provided a safe space for members of the LGBT community in the late 1980s and early 90s.

"There were a lot of people from the LGBT community that used to frequent the Elbow Room and it was really a gathering and meeting place for folks," she said.

"Of course, all these important issues around HIV and AIDS were discussed. I think it was a natural fit and really remarkable that it still carried on all these years later."

Site slated for redevelopment

The restaurant is closing because it sits on one of the city-owned sites slated to be knocked down and redeveloped into new housing units.

Owner Patrick Savoie said it's been a "pretty emotional and pretty busy" few days, as the restaurant prepares to close after 35 years.

He said he hopes another restaurant in Vancouver will step up to support the charity, which receives only 20 per cent of its funding from the province.

"I won't be able to help A Loving Spoonful anymore, but I'm willing to continue to do things for them if I was ever asked, because I really believe in the work they do," Savoie said.

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