British Columbia

Iconic Vancouver vegetarian restaurant The Foundation says goodbye

The Foundation, an iconic Vancouver restaurant beloved by vegetarians, is shutting down next month, with its owners blaming rising rents in the city.

'The rents have gone up substantially ... It's just become really difficult to run the restaurant in the same'

Foundation Restaurant co-owner Mark Thomson said spiralling rents forced him to close his Main Street eatery in early 2017. (Google Street View)

Owners of The Foundation, an iconic Vancouver restaurant beloved by vegetarians, are closing the books on their "wild ride" after 15 years in business.

The eatery, famous for its veggie nachos, plans on shutting down on Feb. 26 after owners sold the business.

It's been a Main Street mainstay, but they say the rising costs in the city have made it too challenging to continue. 

The new owners have not said what they will do with the space.

Co-owner Mark Thomson says The Foundation might be famous for nachos, but it was also one of the first to serve quinoa before it became trendy.

When the restaurant first opened in 2002, there were only a handful of other eateries on Main Street. Thomson said rent was about $1,500 a month.

Since then, the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has changed and there's been an explosion of other eateries. Rental rates went up and up.

By last year, Thomson said he was paying $5,000 a month for the space — although he notes the restaurant expanded and doubled in size.

Thomson and his co-owner, Amy Woods, looked at signing a new lease to keep their property this year.

They said rental rates would've "probably" been around the $8,000 mark.

"It just ends up being a lot of money for a casual business," Thomson said. "We've put everything personally into the restaurant ... but those kinds of costs are associated with people with more money."

Woods also said the restaurant can't keep passing costs on to the consumer because "we can't charge $17 for rice and beans."

It leaves her wondering how other restaurateurs in the city are coping. 

"It started to weigh on us," she said. "We really became uncomfortable with asking more."

Both owners say they are proud of the restaurant but saddened to close. 

Thomson also said there is a demolition clause placed on their building. 

"It's been a ticking time bomb for me, because I've put my heart and soul into this and I can't stand thinking about a wrecking ball smashing into it."

With files from Lien Yeung and Deborah Goble