Changes On The Drive #101

January 1, 2020

There were a couple of times I thought I might drown during the walk yesterday in torrential rain. But I managed to get through it with a couple of stops to dry out on the way.

I saw no changes on the southern half of my walk. However, according to a commercial website suggested to me by a regular correspondent, both the Cabrito Restaurant at 2270 Commercial and the Dollar Grocers vegetable market at 2210 are for sale at $226,000 and $150,000 respectively.


Change is a bit more active north of First.

By the time you read this, I understand that the Libra Room at 1608 Commercial will be closed for goodTheir website doesn’t mention the closure, but also has no music dates shown after the New Year.  One unconfirmed rumour has it that the space will become a Greek restaurant.  Sad to lose such an important live music venue.

On the other hand, by the time you read this, Bar Corso at 1566 Commercial may well be open. It finally looks ready for prime time.

The Ugly Dumpling at 1590 Commercial and its owners get a good write up in Scout.

Livia, 1339 Commercial, made it to the Best New Restaurant of 2019 list.

Oca Pastaficio at 1260 Commercial is now open.  It specialises in hand-made pasta and is run by Greg Dilabio and Adam Pegg who both have long resumes of delivering great food in Vancouver.


I am told by another regular correspondent that the store at 1108 Commercial — the home of Urban Empire for so many years, and more recently the less successful juice bar called Wilder — is soon to be the home of Tamam To Go, a branch of the Palestinian restaurant on Hastings. That will be worth watching.

The Five Elements at 1046 Commercial is currently closed for major renovations and due to reopen in January. However, I noticed earlier this week that there was a Stop Work order on the door because they do not have a permit for the renovations.  Hope that doesn’t delay them too long.

The former and much-missed Skylight Cafe at 1012 Commercial is soon to reopen as a Japanese fried chicken place called Mogu. They used to operate a food truck.  It will be interesting to see how it does opposite the always-packed Downlow Chicken Shack.

The commercial website that I mentioned near the beginning of this piece also shows the Bump n’Grind coffee shop at 916 Commercial for sale at $129,000. [Update 1/1: owners says not for sale]


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (6 months vacant), 2223 (10 months), 1740 (5 months), 1303 (3 months), 1108 (5 months), 1012 (3 months).


So, we finish the year with the lowest number of vacancies on the Drive since September 2014.


Changes On The Drive #100

December 1, 2019

It was a very brisk day for walking yesterday.  I’m glad it was overcast because that probably kept it a few degrees above freezing.

The situation at 2277 Commercial, the former Sweet Greek, is still something of a mystery. Yet another month closed, but all the equipment, tables, etc, still in place.  Odd.

Kishimoto Restaurtant, 2054 Commercial, gets an interesting review. Must try this place soon.

At 1859 Commercial, the former Tikka House has new owners and is now called Zazie.  According to a very pleasant English lady I spoke with, they have been open three weeks and the new owners are all from Bombay.  I hope they do well.


A couple of months ago, I noted that a tattoo parlour had opened up at 1840 Commercial, but last month I was sure it was vacant again.  However, Next Tattoo now has a sign and seems to be doing well.


La Grotta del Formaggio at 1791 Commercial gets a really nice shout out from a local chef.

After a break of more than a year, the KushKlub cannabis store is back open at 1735 Commercial.


Mezcaleria at 1622 Commercial gets rave reviews for the Queso Fundido in the Hive’s list of Best Fondue in Vancouver.

What used to be Hirado Sushi at 1431 Commercial has now become Hina Ramen.

Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial is now offering an all day brunch menu.

The Stormcrow Tavern at 1305 is now sporting an octopus on the roof (You can’t make this stuff up!)


At 1260 Commercial, the store is still closed but there is now a sign announcing that Oca “pastifico” will be opening shortly.

1206 Commercial, which has been a “plant based boutique” for a while, has become the Make Merry Party House.  Not sure what that is exactly; maybe just a Christmas thing?


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (5 months vacant), 2223 (9 months), 1740 (4 months), 1544 (6 months), 1303 (2 months), 1260 (5 months), 1128 (4 months), 1012 (2 months).


This is the 100th monthly edition of Changes on The Drive, a series that has gone on for more than eight years.  I hope it is still useful.

Changes On The Drive #99

November 1, 2019

It was a spectacular fall day yesterday when I did the walk; bright and sunny, with just enough of a chill to make it interesting.

The old Sweet Greek at 2277 Commercial has been closed for a few months now.  Today, I noticed the signage had come down but the interior, with tables and chairs etc., is still as it was. Along the block, 2223 is also still closed but there is work going on inside to refit, and the development permit confirms that it will still be a cannabis store when it reopens.

At 2001 Commercial, the Gough Hair Salon has closed, replaced by the Van Fade Barber Shop.


The Hive this week has given us “the ultimate list of good coffee shops” in Vancouver.  Only two of the Drive’s many great coffee shops made it to the list: Prado at 1938 Commercial, and Spade, at 1858.  I suspect there will be lots of disagreements about this by devotees on the Drive.


1840 Commercial, which was very briefly a tattoo parlour, looks vacant again.

At 1544 Commercial, Bar Corso is still not open; and from the sign on the door it doesn’t seem close:


Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial and Marcello’s at 1404 Commercial both make it to the Best Pasta in Vancouver list at Dished.

According to Flare, the best brunch on the Drive is at Livia Bakery, 1399 Commercial.  The prices are a bit steep for my taste.  For about the same price you can get a very decent brunch and a beer at The Dime, 1565 Commercial.  A different style, no doubt, and not so chic. But I don’t eat brunch to be chic. Do you?

You may recall that Fets at 1230 Commercial were controversially raided some while ago and had $40,000 of whiskey seized (see my reports here, here, here, and here.)   The restaurant is now headed to BC Supreme Court to try and get recovery of their property.

I noticed on the walk yesterday, that the Havana Theatre now has its own door. I’m not sure if I missed it before.


Now that the Federal election is over, and the Greens have moved out of their campaign office, 1303 Commercial is vacant again.

There is a very interesting article by the CBC about vegan tattooing, featuring Arcane Body Arts at 1111 Commercial.

The Five Elements Cafe at 1046 Commercial is closed for renovations.  It is suggested they will reopen in December of January.


The following note is from their website:

“Five Elements would like to Thank everyone for your love and support in the past years. As of October 26 , 2019 Our restaurant will be closing for renovations. We will be reopen in Mid December or early January with new exciting menu. We looking forward to this new facelift and changes Victoria and Five Elements family like to wish you all a very happy time with your love ones and enjoy this year’s Halloween and have a fun time in the lost souls parade this year.  Just a heads up we will be having a bar serving Vietnamese beer, wine and cocktail plus lots of seafood on the menu with A new noodle soup everyday for lunch we try bring favourites from the north to the south of Vietnam and at dinner we will be serving lots of Authentic Vietnam dishes plus on the weekends we Will having A chef’s creative menu. Its ever challenging for my me, my son and his chefs to bring the authentic traditional Vietnamese with a healthy concept in mind “less sodium and minimize to use any msg in our menu but still to achieved the tastes thats we all craving for”. We might disappoint some regulars with not having their favourite item from the old menu … Bon Appetite everyone.”


Movie actress Alicia Silverstone has given Raise Vegan magazine a list of her favourite began spots in VancouverEternal Abundance at 1025 Commercial makes the list as a vegan cafe and grocer.

We went for dinner this week at Absinthe Bistro, 962 Commercial.  My review is here.


Vacancies On The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (4 months vacant), 2223 (8 months), 1840 (1 month), 1740 (3 months), 1735 (13 months), 1544 (5 months), 1303 (1 month), 1260 (4 months), 1012 (1 month).


Previous editions of Changes On The Drive.

Changes on The Drive #98

October 1, 2019

I did the walk yesterday and it was like a summer’s day; I was significantly over-dressed, but not complaining.  There are virtually no changes on the Drive this month, stability (almost) reigns).

Not surprisingly, Mintage at 1714 Commercial is listed as one of Vancouver’s Best Thrift stores in a list compiled by the Georgia Strait.

The Benchhouse Bakery in the Il Mercato mall gets a nod in the Daily Hive’s list of best bread in Vancouver.  It is the only place on the Drive that makes the list (although Uprising on Venables makes the list).

As suggested last month, 1346 Commercial has now opened as a multi-service store with printing and cell phones.


Sula at 1128 Commercial makes the Hive‘s list of best Indian food in Vancouver. They call it “a gem.”

Next door, at 1124, the Stlll Fabulous store makes the Straight’s Best Thrift stores.


The Miscellany store at 1029 Commercial is another Best Thrift store according to the Straight.

As posted a few days ago, the wonderful Skylight Restaurant, at 1012 Commercial has joined the pantheon of now-closed diners I have loved. We went back on Sunday, their very last day, and were happy to stand in line for half an hour, so eager were folks to say goodbye to a treasured neighbour. This was my last meal there and the shot represents my nostalgia for things now gone.


This storefront has been a diner since the building was erected in 1977. But no longer: A little bird tells me that the space will be taken over by a non-sushi, non-breakfast, Japanese restaurant.

I had wondered where the Britannia kids who frequented the Skylight at lunchtime would go. Perhaps it is no surprise that, when I walked by yesterday about noon, the Pizza Garden at 1042 Commercial was overflowing with them.

Little Miss Vintage at 931 Commercial also gets a mention in the Straight‘s Best Thrift stores article.


Vacancies on The Drive This Month:  2277 Commercial (3 months vacant), 2223 (7 months), 1740 (2 months), 1735 (12 months), 1544 (4 months), 1260 (3 months), 1128 (2 months).


Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #97

September 1, 2019

When I started the walk yesterday, the day was cool and pleasant. By the time I got home it had become as muggy as a tropical forest. Oh well, it was a joy to be out.

Not much change at the southern end of the Drive.  However, the old Smoke Shop at 1840 Commercial has now become a tattoo parlour (one of quite a few on the Drive these days).

I am glad to have been corrected by a commenter last month that both sides of Falconetti’s at 1810-1812 are back open as a restaurant, including the upstairs balcony.

However, the Babylon Tea Company at 1740 Commercial does not seem well. Someone has at least picked up the mail from the doorstep since last month, but otherwise it still seems very closed.  I am going to declare it vacant this month. I can always reverse that decision if it springs back to life.

The space just around the corner at 1706 E. 1st has now become the Oh Sweet Day! Bake Shop operated by food blogger Fanny Lamm.  It is a spot that recently failed with another pastry shop, and they now have the added competition of Dive In Desserts at 1706 Commercial.  I wish them all good fortune.

The Ugly Dumpling restaurant at 1590 Commercial has made it to the list of nominees for Canada’s Best New Restaurant of 2019.  Well done to them!

The former Maz convenience store is in the process of becoming yet another mobile phone store.  I realize that my non-phone bias is showing, but do we really need three of these places in such close proximity?


The Wilder Juice place at 1128 Commercial seems to have bitten the dust.

Finally, the building at 1102 Commercial, which was the first brick building on the Drive when it was erected in 1910, has now received a Heritage Plaque.  Some of my friends will say that the owners don’t deserve the recognition because of the monstrosity  of what they putting up on the car park behind. I have some sympathy with that, but the building itself is important and I hope that being recognized may save it from further depredation in the future.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2277 Commercial (2 months vacant), 2223 (6 months), 1740 (1 month), 1735 (11 months), 1544 (3 months), 1260 (2 months), 1128 (1 month).


Previous editions of Changes On the Drive.

Changes On The Drive #96

August 1, 2019

It was just a perfect summer’s day stroll down the Drive yesterday with the heat of the bright sunshine complemented by a good fresh breeze.  It was a midweek lunch hour, and the Drive wasn’t so busy as to be uncomfortable. Notwithstanding the lazy weather, there have been a number of changes on the street this month, but we end up, once again, at our lowest vacancy number for several years..

The Sweet Greek restaurant at 2277 Commercial is still closed after the change of management noted last month. It looked desolate through the windows yesterday so I am reluctantly calling this one vacant.


Cafe Deux Soleils at 2096 Commercial gets a nice call out as one of the best and cheapest brunches in town. It was during a poetry slam in the last millenium when I was last there. No idea why it took so long, but I went yesterday for brunch and it was great.


There is good news on the Falcone front.  The restaurant at 1812 may already be open, it certainly looked ready as I walked by yesterday. the 1810 storefront was completely covered up, so it was impossible to tell if that is equally ready to re-emerge.  Good news anyway.

La Grotta at 1791 Commercial is celebrating 40 years of service on the Drive,

The Babylon Tea Company at 1740 Commercial was closed as I walked by. it was closed the last time i looked, too, and there is an accumulation of mail on the doorstep.  Maybe just closed for holidays so I am reluctant to call it vacant yet.

The anticipated Bar Corso at 1544 Commercial is still not yet open.

One of the last surviving stores of its type, Black Dog Video at 1470 Commercial gets a CBC story.

The space next door to Renzo’s, 1303 Commercial, seems to be being taken over by the Green Party, in anticipation of the fall election, I guess.

Whatever extra space was previously available at the REACH Clinic, 1045 Commercial, is now to be occupied by a new Provincial Health Care hub. “The facilities are intended to take stress off of hospital ERs while providing patients with same-day access to doctors and nurses.”


Story on the Eastside Food Co-op at 1034 Commercial has turned its fortune on it head. Last year, there were fears it would have to close; now, it is reporting great results and even talking about a possible expansion. Great news for a great organization.

The Absinthe Bistro, which used to be at 1260 Commercial, has now moved and opened at 952 Commercial.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2277 Commercial (1 month vacant), 2223 (5 months), 1840 (6 months), 1810 (17 months), 1735 (10 months), 1544 (2 months), 1260 (1 month).

The future of retail?  See the massive anticipated growth in “autonomous check out” in retail stores:



Previous Changes On The Drive editions.

Changes On The Drive #95

July 1, 2019

Boy it was hot walking the Drive yesterday. Thank goodness I remembered my hat!

Not a lot of changes this month.  However, we remain at only 8 vacancies on the Drive. Two of those vacancies are former cannabis dispensaries which, I assume, are still struggling with the licensing process, two others are the linked Falcone storefronts which may or may not be being renovated (it is hard to tell), and a further two are scheduled to reopen imminently.

The Sweet Greek, a place I have praised before, has a sign saying that new management has taken over.  Fingers crossed that it doesn’t lose its charm.


The new-to-us Grounds for Coffee, which opened last month at 2088 Commercial, gets a long and glowing review in the Vancouver Sun.  However, they have had to give up their idea of not accepting cash.


As suggested last month, My Sister’s Closet has now formally taken over the 1828 Commercial storefront.


The BBQ Chicken place at 1678 Commercial seems to be getting a makeover. It was looking pretty run down.


The southernmost storefront of the Kalena group, 1544 Commercial, which most recently failed as a fancy candy store, is soon to be a bar, the Corso.  I’m not sure when it will open.


Sopra Sotto at 1510 Commercial has opened a branch in Burnaby.

The owners of the recently opened Harbour Oyster Bar at 1408 Commercial are revealed to be Ari Demosten and Alex Kytiazis, previously known from their controversial and now-closed Escobar Restaurant on Fraser.

Finally, 952 Commercial (which used to be Joe’s Grill) is still closed but will soon reopen as the new location for Absinthe Bistro, currently at 1260 Commercial.


Vacancies on the Drive this month:  2223 Commercial (4 months vacant), 1840 (5 months), 1812 (16 months), 1810 (16 months), 1735 (9 months), 1544 (1 month), 1303 (2 months), 952 (9 months).

Previous Changes on The Drive editions.