Inside Juanita, Opening Soon in Kitsilano

The owners of North Vancouver’s popular Lift Breakfast Bakery are opening a new restaurant inside the old Blue Martini jazz bar space next to Kits Beach in early 2021.

Chef Jane Young and partner Fraser Young secured the 3,000 sqft space this past summer after the quiet closure of the dark, New Orleans-inspired haunt. Their plan is to turn the space into an all-day, 135-seat brunch spot conceptually similar to the original Lift on the North Shore, but with a slightly more refined dinner service that is reflective of Jane’s love and appreciation of the Mediterranean and its varied cuisines.

Before her 3 year-run as the Pastry Chef at Chambar, Jane staged at El Bulli in Spain under chef Ferran Adrià for the famed restaurant’s final 18 months. She has a stellar reputation and a dedicated following on Lonsdale, so I’m excited to learn more about the dinner menu and its accompanying wine program (a mix of Old World and New, I’m told) as the project develops. They’re calling it LB2, an abbreviated nod to it being the couple’s second operation (not its 2am liquor license!). UPDATE: LB2 was a placeholder name during construction. It will be called Juanita.

I toured the low-ceilinged construction site during a break in the rain earlier this week. The front bulkhead by the door has been removed, revealing the whole of the razed interior to entrants all at once. It looks and feels like a very different space. The demolition spared the long bar and open kitchen; both will be dressed anew (goodbye blue and red tile), resulting in an open line and 13 seats gazing upon it.

Given the night-focused recent history of the address – which some might also remember as the dimly lit Hapa Beach (a fixture for eight years before the Blue Martini took over for the next four years) or, prior to that, the legendary Urban Well comedy club – it’s not all that easy to imagine it brightened up as a fount of brunchy comforts. But change is good. And so are the 24 seat patio seats flanking the entrance. I suspect there’s much deliciousness to look forward to here, so expect further reporting as LB2 nears launch in January. In the meantime, take a look inside…

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There are 11 comments

  1. Don’t forget that before Hapa Beach this was the site of the Urban Well, which was an institution for years and had Robin Williams grace its standup stage on several occasions. It was also a prime spot to see Brent Butt back in the day and I believe it was where Seth Rogen worked out his early sets as a teenage comic. It was kind of a legendary place.

  2. Ugh…that name. Sounds like a gay bar that only accepts Lesbian, Bi and 2-Spirit customers.

  3. It’ll be tough to pry the locals-of whom I’m one-out of their hidey holes but maybe given the upcoming mass vaccinations and promised better everything the timing for this could be good.

    And Yes just a horrid name choice.

  4. Just thought I would comment to add some positivity. As a local, this looks great. Can’t wait to try it out! I like the name (I don’t think it sounds like a gay bar, but if it did or it was, that’s not a bad thing). Best of luck to our new neighbours!

  5. Getting over the name (although I agree that another location of “Lift” would be just fine, by me), I’m pretty excited about this addition to the neighborhood. Lift has always been reliably good when I’ve visited on the North Shore. It’s unfortunate a night life spot hasn’t been able to survive there any longer, but if they brighten up the spot it’ll be a great little restaurant by the beach.

  6. I can’t wait for Juanita to open! Jane is pure talent and everything she does is brilliant. This spot will for sure be a welcome change to Kits-thank heavens it’s not another “authentic Mexican restaurant”.

  7. Juanita? Walked by today and thought for sure it was a Mexican restaurant. Since it appears you are likely still waiting for permits in the city’s notoriously slow process, you may want to rethink name or you will have to do a lot of publicity to overcome the current name. Am looking forward to the opening!

  8. That’s a very strange take. Juanita is a Spanish name, not a Mexican name. Spanish is the official language of 20 countries around the world, not including Puerto Rico, so it’s not a little odd that anyone would only think “for sure” that Juanita was Mexican. I mean…c’mon.