With so many restaurants having closed in Gastown over the course of the pandemic there have been whispers among those in and out of the hospitality trade concerning its future as one of Vancouver’s most exciting neighbourhoods for good food and drink.
Among those that have recently shuttered are the consequential likes of Sardine Can, Bauhaus, Coquille, Tuc, Peckinpah, Nicli Antica Pizzeria, La Mezcaleria, Wildebeest and the Irish Heather. That is not the full list, and it is important to note that many excellent restaurants remain (eg. Pidgin, L’Abattoir, Pourhouse, among others), but it’s evidence enough that the neighbourhood’s culinary character has taken a big hit. The question is, can Gastown recover to be as good or even better than it was before?
Before you answer that, consider this: There have been several boom/bust cycles in Gastown’s 130 year history. It’s possible that the latest cycle only felt exceptional to us because we experienced it ourselves. Many of the new tastes, new operators, and new dining rooms that made the area in and around Gassy Jack Square so magnetic over the past 20 years were – for the most part – plugged into addresses that had seen it all before. But I think what made this cycle stand out to so many food and drink lovers across the city was how it was miraculously spared the big box and chain operations that were diluting the vibrancy and appeal of other neighbourhoods in those same 20 years.
For certain, every Gastown restaurant that went down during the pandemic will be replaced in the wake of the bust we’re enduring now, but therein lies the current anxiety. Replaced with what, exactly?