Mid Month Openings and Closings

June 14, 2018

Image: Downlow

The big news on the Drive right now, according to a lot of social media publicity, is the official opening of the Downlow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial (which used to be Deserts).

This is a spinoff from the Nashville hot chicken sandwich that is a favourite at Merchants Workshop at 1590 Commercial.

The newly renovated store has 24 seats and the sandwiches start at about $12.00. They had a test run earlier in the month and were open during Italian Day where the lineups were extravagant.

Also available for Italian Day, and now opened full time, is the Honest Juice Bar which has taken over the storefront at 1106 Commercial, a space that has been sorrily vacant for more than four years.


On a sadder note, the Reef Restaurant appears to have closed.  On Italian Day, they had a sign saying it was their last day and thanking the Drive for 10 good years.


Changes On The Drive #82

June 1, 2018

A beautiful walk down the Drive yesterday; cool weather, no threat of rain, delightful.

St. Augustine’s at 2360 Commercial, gets rave reviews for its tacos.

At 2260, which has been vacant for a few months, we now have The Physio’s Shop. I assume it is a medical practice.

Across the street, 2247 Commercial is still closed, and being renovated for a Poke 5 franchise — still coming soon.

The old Bon Bon Laundry at 2058 Commercial is now papered over, so I guess it finally closed.  There had been a for lease sign on the building for months.

I still keep hearing that Falconetti’s at 1810-1812 Commercial is planning to renovate.  However, after another month, no work seems to have begun.

Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets another rave review, and also gets listed in Scout’s best brunch list.

The Arriva Restaurant at 1537 Commercial seems to be getting an exterior face-lift. They have just started so I am not sure how major the changes will be at this point.

In last month’s Changes I noted the closure of Bao Down at 1408 Commercial. However, their sign about restaurants on the Drive closing notwithstanding, the same owners claim to be refurbishing the joint and relaunching as Nacho Loco, a Mexican cantina.  Right now, though, I can see no work progressing and I am calling it closed.

Elizabeth Bakery, which sublet the space at 1399 Commercial, from All Basho, has closed. I heard from someone that the restaurant thought there was a misunderstanding and was surprised to see them go. However, I was also told he was charging the bakery $5,000 a month rent for that small space, so I am not at all surprised. There is also talk that, unable to find another tenant for the sublet, All Basho is also likely to close within the next month or so.

Famoso Pizzeria at 1380 Commercial (and elsewhere) has been purchased by Frank Di Benedetto’s FDF Restaurant Brandz which also owns the Ricky’s and Fatburger chains.

Memphis Blues, 1364 Commercial, with its bright new awning, also makes the list for best tacos in town.

At 1212 Commercial, the refurbished and re-opened Havana continues to get press. 

There is another good review of Kulinarya Filipino Eatery at 1134 Commercial; this one from the Globe & Mail.

1110 Commercial is now the Hustle Pizza place, having morphed this month from Mega Pizza.


Next door, at 1106, which used to be Urban Empire until it closed almost 4 years ago, I believe I saw some work going on inside the store.  It would be great to have that space opened up again after so long.

The space at 956 Commercial, where Bosa Foods used to be, is undergoing a major renovation.  The windows are still papered over but I have caught some glimpses of the work going on inside and I suspect it will be a medical facility of some kind — perhaps a therapeutic massage place, or a large clinic.  They seem to be working on it full time, so hopefully we will get to see it soon.

Across the street, Deserts at 905 Commercial is gone after 20 years:  It is being renovated and is soon to be a chicken joint extension of Merchants Workshop.


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2247 (2 months vacant), 2240 (3 months), 2082 (5 months), 2084 (5 months), 2086 (5 months), 2088 (5 months), 2058 (1 month), 1810 (3 months), 1812 (3 months), 1803 (17 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (41 months), 1408 (2 months), 1399 (1 month), 1303 (19 months), 1268 (9 months), 1151 (5 months), 1106 (47 months), 956 (7 months), 905 (1 month).



Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #81

May 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday afternoon, in the brisk late Spring air with threats — but threats only — of rain. It was very pleasant.

The smoothie store at 2247 Commercial seems to have shut down. But someone is renovating it into Poke Five, coming soon:


There is word that Falconetti’s, at 1810 and 1812 Commercial is not really closed but is being renovated. However, it doesn’t look as if the work has begun yet as I walk by.

Sopra Sotto now has a sign on the building.


It looks as if Bao Down on the Drive at 1408 Commercial didn’t make it. I can’t be sure yet but it was closed at lunchtime today and there was an angry sign on the door:


That’s one to keep an eye on.

Across the street at 1441 Commercial, I am glad to see that Tatsu is back open again after its problem this time last month.

I am very pleased to note that the People’s Coop Bookstore at 1391 Commercial will be back to 6-day-a-week opening starting today, May Day!

Havana has reopened after the briefest of times renovating. They got a lot done in just a few weeks.  The new backroom (where the gallery was) is called the Flamingo Room. :  .

Image: Havana Restaurant

Across the street, along Charles and the park, there is now a lineup of rent-a-bikes.

Here is a a more pleasing review of the Kulinarya Filipino Eatery, 1134 Commercial, than I was able to manage.  Meanwhile, Megabyte Pizza at 1110 is closed for renovations.

At 1044 Commercial that used to be Rabbit & Empee, there suddenly appeared a slick western style barber shop called the Crowsnest offering pomps and fades.


Finally, the building at 956 Commercial that has been vacant since Bosa moved their store back to Victoria Drive has had the”For lease” signs removed, then had the windows carefully papered over, and now there is a small discrete sign for Heatherbrae, a developer.  I wrote them an email but didn’t hear back. I wonder what their plans are?


Vacant/closed/renovating stores on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2247 (1 month), 2240 (2 months), 2082 (4 months), 2084 (4 months), 2286 (4 months), 2288 (4 months), 1810 (2 months), 1812 (2 months), 1803 (16 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato Mall (40 months), 1303 (18 months), 1268 (8 months), 1151 (4 months), 1106 (46 months), 956 (7 months).


There was an interesting Business in Vancouver article this month about vacant storefronts in other Vancouver neighbourhoods.


Previous Changes on the Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #80

April 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday in the finest weather of the year so far; gorgeous light and warm enough to do without a jacket — marvelous!

There are no changes at the southern end of the Drive, not until the 1800-block where, to the surprise of many, Falconetti’s has closed; both the cafe and the meat store. The butcher, as Falcone Brothers, had been a fixture on the Drive since 1968.


At 1670 Commercial, The Drive Coffee Bar has started a weekly story telling series.

The Merchants Workshop at 1590 is a finalist for both Best Brunch and Best East Side restaurant in  Vancouver Magazine.

At the other end of that block, at 1500 Commercial, Sopra Sotto has finally opened.  It has received quite a bit of press; here is a preview piece from the Daily Hive from which I took this image:

Black Dog Video, at 1470 Commercial, celebrated its 22nd anniversary in March.  It may be the last video rental store in the world.

Across the street, Tatsu Sushi at 1441, which used to have a stellar reputation for its fine sushi presentations, has been slapped with a close order from Vancouver Coastal Health.  There were, it appears, a number of serious issues and I don’t know when it will reopen.


In that small retail enclave on Charles just east of the Drive, the Off Main Gallery has opened. It has an interesting backstory.


The Havana at 1212 Commercial has now closed for about three weeks for its major renovation (see Changes #78 for full details).  Here is the Daily Hive’s discussion.

The Kulinyara restaurant at 1134, has apparently begun boodle fights (yes, your guess is as good as mine).  You may recall that I wasn’t really enamoured with this place when it opened — perhaps a food fight will liven it up!

Sweet Cherubim, at 1105 Commercial, won the 2018 Organic Retailer of the Year award from the Canadian Organic Trade Association.


The Napier Greenway has a blossom tree that has opened before most of the others in the neighbourhood. It is stunningly beautiful after the gloom of winter.


The former Bosa Grocery at 956 Commercial is still vacant but the “For Lease” signs have disappeared. I wonder if that is good news?

And to complete this month, Kin Kao, at 903, is a Best Thai finalist in Vancouver Magazine.


Vacant stores on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2082 (3 months), 2084 (3 months), 2086 (3 months), 2088 (3 months), 1803 (15 months), 1810 (1 month), 1812 (1 month), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (39 months), 1303 (17 months), 1268 (7 months), 1151 (3 months), 1108 (45 months), 1046 (3 months), 956 (6 months).



Previous editions of Changes on the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #79

March 1, 2018

I did the walk this month in that misty wetness that doesn’t quite have the guts to come straight out and rain. It was kind of miserable to be honest. But we at least start off the month with good news.

The two new storefronts (2283 and 2285 Commercial) that were created when the corner store at 8th was revamped are now both filled. One is a Mr. Greek donair shop, and next door there is a BC Currency office (still seems an odd spot for that!).


Across the street, the 77K Freeze at 2240 Commercial no longer has any signage, and was closed. But the set-up is still all there, so it is a little soon to declare it vacant.


The wonderful old Wonderbucks building at 1801 is finally for sale, along with 1656 E. 2nd which is the parking area at back. It has been vacant more than a year and I guess Lucarino Investments have given up trying to lease it out for $30,000 or so a month. Now, I guess, we have to start worrying about might happen to the place once it is bought. More retail plus three storeys of affordable rental would be good.


Prospective buyers are asked to propose a bid on both parcels, so no price is given. However, the 2018 BC Assessments total $8,109,300 with $80,069 a year in taxes.  Without a change in zoning, the current retail space (zoned C2C) could be pushed to an FSR of 3 or almost 25,000 sq.ft of space.  The back lot (currently zoned as RM-4) could add another 5,200 sq.ft.

The Penny Pub on the south-west corner of Commercial & Graveley has begun a series of weekly drag shows. I haven’t seen a decent drag show since I lived in the West Ed in the 80s.  They were always great fun!

At 1342 Commercial, Memphis Blues is currently closed “for a few weeks” for renovation.

I had not realized that part of the frontage of the new REACH clinic is actually a storefront for lease at 1151 Commercial. It is still vacant.


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2260 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2082 (2 months), 2084 (2 months), 2086 (2 months), 2088 (2 months), 1803 (14 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (38 months), 1500 (15 months), 1303 (16 months), 1268 (6 months), 1151 (2 months), 1108 (44 months), 1046 (2 months), 956 (5 months).


Previous Changes on the Drive editions

Changes On The Drive #78

February 1, 2018

I did the walk yesterday morning, to try to avoid the rain. I wasn’t so lucky! But at least it wasn’t desperately cold. There are remarkably few changes this month which shows some stability on the Drive. Luckily there is lots of news and coverage to report.

On the no-longer-new storefront at 2285 Commercial, there is still a sign advertising a Currency Exchange to be opened in the site, but it is still vacant at this time.

The biggest change is that the newly built storefronts in the 2000-block are now available and all four are, according to the signs, already leased. That’s good news and it will be interesting to see what goes in there. But, until they are actually filled, they will put a blip in the vacancy charts.


Prado Cafe at 1938 Commercial is one of only two places on the Drive that makes it into the Daily Hive’s list of the best places to have a Tinder date. See below for the other one.

One of the mainstays of the Drive, Cafe Calabria, 1745 Commercial, gets a nice mention from chef Alessandro Vianello in Scout this month.  “The coffee is fast, on point, and with no ego attached. Plus I love going in and speaking Italian with Frank and his sons. It really makes me feel like I’m in Italy having coffee with my Dad.”

Across the street, Federico’s Supper Club is still welcoming the world with his Merry Christmas sign.


Darcy Houser is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his owning the SuperValu at First & Commercial. I used to live just behind it on Graveley in the 1990s and the store was a mess; dirty, and with the worst selection of produce on the Drive. Now, it is clean and modern and just a great friendly place to shop with some of the most helpful staff around. Darcy and his manager Dwayne have a lot to be proud of. When he was interviewed on CBC Radio at the beginning of January, Darcy noted that they had just suffered a massive 30% rent increase.

Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial got some more press this month, with an interesting story of its history on Scout. They explain the 9 month delay in opening (see Changes #1 through 18) was caused by the delays in getting an electrical upgrade.

The former oyster bar that is now Merchant’s Workshop at 1590 Commercial gets a rave review in Vancouver Magazine this month. “The best neighbourhood restaurants are almost an extension of your own home: welcoming, casual and comfortable—all three a check, check, check for Merchant’s Workshop.”

The Stormcrow Tavern at 1305 Commercial is the second Drive space rated to be great for Tinder dates.

Just around the corner from the Drive at 1704 Charles, the new art gallery has closed. However, a sign on the window says that the “Art Off Main” gallery is due to open in March.

One of our other longtime mainstays, which now operates under the  Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen name at 1230 Commercial, started the month with great publicity as Canada’s whiskey mecca. However, by the end of the month it was well known as the site of a Prohibition-Era-style raid by BC government agents. It appears to be a bureaucratic piece of nonsense that has, nonetheless, cost one of our most community-minded merchants a great deal of money.

Right next door to Fet’s, the Havana Restaurant is planning major changes.

We will be losing the art gallery space but they plan to keep the wonderfully intimate theatre behind the eating area.

Unfortunately, we have to close with sad news.  The quirky clothing store Rabbit & Empee has quit its space at 1044 and the store is now vacant.

Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (8 months), 2283 (8 months), 2082 (1 month), 2084 (1 month), 2286 (1 month), 2286 (1 month), 1803 (13 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (37 months), 1500 (14 months), 1303 (15 months), 1268 (5 months), 1108 (43 months), 1044 (1 month), 956 (4 months).


Previous Changes on The Drive editions

Changes On The Drive #77

January 1, 2018

What a gorgeous winter’s day it was this morning. Perhaps a little cold for my taste, but bright and sharp.

Two of the three new storefronts in the 2200-block westside are still vacant. There is still a sign at 2283 advertising the opening of a currency exchange, but little or no work seems to have been done to it yet.

The new storefronts at 2080-2086 are still not ready for leasing and so do not yet appear on my “Vacant” list. I have been calling this a two storey building (because that’s the way it seems from the exterior) but I now suspect they are one storey with high clearance and clerestory-style windows.  That would at least match the development permit sign that was there many months ago.

Now that it is fully open, Spade at 1858 Commercial attracted a good review from the Daily Hive. The restaurant will also be hosting the first live on location broadcast for CBC Radio’s The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn as the new host. They’ll be at Spade from 5:00am to 8:30am on January 5th.


The Babylon Tea Company is finally open at 1740 Commercial.  We’ve been waiting for months for this.


The queso fundido at Mezcaleria, 1622 Commercial, was highly recommended in the Georgia Straight.   The restaurant also made it to Honourable Mention in Scout’s Top 25 Restaurants of the Year (nothing else on the Drive was even mentioned.)

At 1666 Graveley (still part of the Il Mercato building) that for decades was a wine-brewing place has received both a development permit and a business license to operate a cannabis dispensary as Farmacia.


What used to be the Abruzzo Cafe at 1321 Commercial is now the Toscani Coffee Bar. Ownership changed some time ago and perhaps the name did too; but I just noticed it in December.  I notice that their outside menu changed a little after I posted my picture of it. I rather preferred its previous originality.

The new Filipino restaurant, Kulinarya, at 1134 Commercial is now open. My quick review is here.

Moja at 1102  is the only Commercial Drive coffee shop on the list of Scout’s top 25 work-friendly cafes. Odd that. I also note that the tree beside Moja on Napier is now protected. That usually means building in their parking lot is probably about to start.


Although 631 Commercial is outside the usual geographic boundary of these reports, it seems impossible to leave a discussion about the Drive in December 2017 without mentioning the closing of Nicks’ Spaghetti House, a neighbourhood icon since 1955.  Nick Felicella opened a small coffee shop in that year and it quickly grew and morphed into one of the most popular traditional Italian eateries anywhere in Vancouver. I heard a rumour that the building owner refused a lease extension, while Nick talks tactfully about “moving on.”   Whatever the reason, Nick’s will be sorely missed. According to a later report, another restaurant is already booked to take its place.


Vacant or closed on the Drive this month:  2285 (7 months), 2283 (7 months), 2266 (2 months), 1801 (12 months), former Strawberry Bakery in Il Mercato (36 months), 1500 (13 months), 1303 (14 months), 1268 (4 months), 1108 (43 months), and 956 Commercial (3 months).


Previous Changes On the Drive editions.