Remembering the Original ‘Hapa’ on Robson Street, a Dark and Sexy Game-Changer

The ever-evolving Restaurant Graveyard series looks back at the countless, long-shuttered establishments that helped to propel Vancouver’s food and drink forward. Full A-Z with maps and photos here. May they never be forgotten!

To be clear, Hapa Izakaya still exists in Vancouver with a single location in Yaletown. But once upon a time, before expanding to Hamilton Street, a third space in Kits and a fourth in Coal Harbour (not to mention Calgary and Toronto), the irreverent, booze-forward and enthusiastically modern Japanese concept first thrived in a dark space that made guests feel like they were being let in on a little secret. This was 1479 Robson Street, and this entry eulogizes this address only. Opened by Leah and Justin Ault in 2003, the original Hapa was an award-winning and exciting breath of fresh air for Vancouver. Like the original Guu on Thurlow St. (opened in 2000), Hapa Izakaya helped set a tone and blaze a trail for countless other restaurants to follow with its loud but sexy atmosphere, eclectic menu of small and sharable salty Japanese pub foods (to be soaked up with alcohol), and contagious damn-the-torpedoes attitude. It changed over the years, its edge softening as the company expanded (it even retooled as an oyster bar in 2010), but its golden era – say 2003 to 2007 – was something very special. The location closed for good in 2016 after an apparently impossible increase in rent.

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