Beloved Elbow Room Cafe will close current location to make way for rental units
Staff say they're unsure if restaurant will reopen in another location
The Elbow Room Cafe, a beloved Vancouver breakfast spot, will be leaving its current location on Davie Street because it sits on one of the city-owned sites slated to be knocked down and redeveloped into new housing units.
Staff say they're unsure if the cafe — known as much for its eggs benedict as the sarcastic banter of its employees — will reopen in another location or close its doors for good.
The city first announced plans to develop seven parcels of city-owned land into affordable housing last year. This week city council approved a developer to build, manage, and operate the new rental units.
Customer service manager Nelson Lamarche said he found out about two years ago that the restaurant would eventually have to pack up shop, and negotiated with the city to extend its lease until October 2018.
Staff are unsure of when exactly the restaurant will close. The development on Davie Street is slated to be a mix of commercial and residential space, which means the restaurant could attempt to reopen in the same location after construction on the project is finished.
But Lamarche said that's unlikely.
"It's not really feasible for us to stay. The employees can't put their lives on hold for two years. The customers won't come back after two years of us just not being here," he said.
"If we can find another location we could move," he said. "But the owner is getting on in years. But if he wants to open up again he'll open up again."
Sass since 1983
The Elbow Room Cafe, first opened by Bryan Searle and Patrick Savoie, 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.
But Nelson said it's been a difficult year for the restaurant. In December 2017, Searle died at age 87.
"The room already feels a little empty without Bryan, and now with this as well. But when you've been here as long as we have, we have customers that have been coming here their entire lives," said Lamarche
The restaurant first opened in 1983 on Jervis Street, and has been in its current location since 1996.
The block of Davie where the Elbow Room Cafe now sits is one of seven city-owned sites set to be redeveloped into affordable rental units.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called the project "the single largest investment into non-market housing of any city in Canada."
The redevelopment will result in around 1,000 new units, targeted to singles and families earning between $30,000 and $80,000.
Three of the plots are downtown, two are in East Vancouver and two are on the East Fraser Lands.
With files from Tanya Fletcher