After more than 35 years in business, one of Vancouver’s best-known fine dining restaurants has served its last meal.
Bishop’s Restaurant in Kitsilano opened in 1985, and quickly became a mainstay in the city’s culinary scene — credited, in part, with helping bring the ‘Farm to Table’ movement to Vancouver.
Owner John Bishop had originally announced plans to retire and shut the business down in March 2020, but pivoted during the pandemic and was able to keep the business running by selling takeout meals.
In the end, COVID-19 didn’t herald the end of the business, he said: a new landlord and a massive rent hike did.
“It was like a punch in the stomach — and the fact that there was no flexibility in any way,” Bishop said.
“I just couldn’t see giving them what amounted to $200,000 this year in rent at a time in a business that’s very vulnerable, fragile at best.”
According to Bishop, the building’s new owner wanted $100 per square foot — up from the $40 he had been paying — and also re-measured the property, adding 300 square feet more onto his bill.
That was on top of the expenses included in the lease such as taxes, insurance and building maintenance.
“It’s all been a bit of a blur, because my customers want me to stay. Some customers have said, ‘We’ll write you a cheque so you can pay your rent.’ I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take their money,” he said.
Now heading into retirement, Bishop said he plans to finish an autobiography, travel and work with local charities.
But he said he worries about what the future of restaurants in the city will look like for the next generation of restaurateurs.
“I’m really fearful. You see how many restaurants are closing for a variety of reasons, lack of staff, COVID restrictions, tourism, so many factors that our industry depends upon. I’m not very hopeful,” he said.
“It’s getting harder and harder to put linen on the table. Nice cutlery. Glassware. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe takeout is going to take over. Who knows.”