East Vancouver will see a new bar open doors before the end of the year – and it comes with a comforting name that, given the times, everyone can appreciate: “It’s Okay”.
Behind the project are co-owners Colin Canning (Tacofino/Blueprint), Michael Sanderson (La Bomba), and Alex Dulong (Hero’s Welcome/GoodCo. Bars). While the concept – a proper neighbourhood bar – has been a shared dream for several years, the team was patiently waiting to find the right address before their vision could unfold.
They knew Hastings-Sunrise was where they wanted to be, so when the old Master Chef space (also What’s Up Hot Dog, and most recently Bad Apple) on East Hastings came available, they pounced. The size of the room (which clocks in at 900 sqft, with 35 seats total including a 10 at the bar) felt right, the neighbourhood was ideal, and it didn’t hurt that it came with sweet 2am licence. The team picked up keys to the space earlier this month (September 1st, 2022) and on Wednesday I took a tour to hear about their plans….
Entering the dark room, I’m met by a confusing patchwork of multi-coloured walls and remnants of the previous tenant’s equipment in a disarray of boxes perched on the majority of available surfaces. I make a comment that they have a challenge on their hands. Smiles immediately crack across each one of the owners’ faces, as well as the faces of Kate Snyder and Jessica MacDonald of Studio Roslyn. They know it, and they are excited.
When I dig a bit deeper to find out what it is about Hastings-Sunrise in particular that resonates with them – enough to inspire making the daunting leap into opening a new business – they chalk it up to the neighbourhood’s diverse and loud “big city” vibes. I get it. The bones are good, and this block, this neighbourhood, this room are all ready for something new. So what’s the plan?
Drawing inspiration from 1970’s New York, the vision for the interior is to provide an immersive experience with classic bar decor that brings art, design, music, and a trend-forward aesthetic to the forefront (Snyder and MacDonald of Studio Rosyln are on the job to make sure that the look hits just right). As Canning explains: “We’re inspired by small east coast bars in Toronto, Montreal, New York and Philadelphia. We want to be a place you know will have cold beer waiting for you at happy hour, a place where you sit until last call with a friend going through a break-up, or just a place where you can find a seat on a foggy afternoon. We want to be the kind of bar that provides a reprieve from the day-to-day. You’ll be able to rely on It’s Okay as somewhere to find a smiling face that remembers your name.” (Cheers reference intended).
Food and drink will be simple and approachable: expect snacks, salads and sandwiches, as well as a curated beer list, classic cocktails, and thoughtful table wines. Naturally, Dulong will be leading the aforementioned bar program, although the chef who will be helming the 14-18 item food menu has yet to be named.
Knock on wood, by mid-November it will all come together – with the stylish assistance of Calgary/Saskatoon-based Bamff Studio (branding) and Studio Rosyln, of course. The big picture for this small bar: “To become an institution, with many good times along the way.”
Stay tuned for updates by following It’s Okay on instagram here.