Iconic Vancouver cafe damaged in suspected arson, could be closed for months

Click to play video: 'Iconic Ovaltine Cafe closed after fire'
Iconic Ovaltine Cafe closed after fire
The Ovaltine Cafe, an iconic Vancouver restaurant and popular location for movies and TV shows, is the latest to apparently be hit by property crime. Grace Ke reports – May 29, 2023

An iconic Vancouver cafe, which doubles as a popular location for filming movies and TV shows, is the latest victim of property crime in the Downtown Eastside.

The Ovaltine Cafe has been temporarily shut down after someone deliberately set fire behind the building.

Grace Chen, who has owned the cafe for about 10 years, said one of her kitchen staff arrived at work, saw the fire, and called her.

“It started at the back window,” Chen told Global News, adding that the fire department told her someone had purposely set the fire.

She said the extent of the damage is not yet known because the insurance company and building inspectors have to investigate first.

“Inside there’s water damage and smoke,” Chen said. “So we cannot go inside. I had to throw out the food, everything, away.”

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She said they may even be closed for two or three months, according to officials.

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Vancouver’s Ovaltine Café wins international accolades

The Ovaltine Cafe, with its signature neon sign, has been a staple in the neighbourhood since it opened in 1942.

Movies such as I, Robot and TV shows including Lucifer, Charmed and the X-Files have all filmed scenes there.

Chen said six people work at the cafe and she’s worried about how it is going to survive.

“It’s making me cry,” she said. “When they say the store is OK, that’s when I’ll know the store, we can save. But I have to shut down for three months, and I’m worried.”

Vancouver police have confirmed it is investigating the case but there is no official word yet on how the fire started.

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Chen’s daughter Rachel told Global News it will be able to save all the furnishings, including the 80-year-old booth in the front.

But anything that was exposed to smoke had to be thrown out and is not safe to eat.

“She cares so much,” Rachel said. “Every time she’s in the shop, she’s either cleaning something, mopping up something. She wants to try and save as much as she can.”

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