B.C.'s restaurant restrictions spell the end for this decades-old Surrey diner

·3 min read
Dennis Springenatic says the pandemic has hit his Surrey restaurant hard, particularly after the most recent restrictions on indoor dining.   (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)
Dennis Springenatic says the pandemic has hit his Surrey restaurant hard, particularly after the most recent restrictions on indoor dining. (Jon Hernandez/CBC - image credit)

From its leather bar stools and checkered walls to the bright neon cowboy galloping over the front door, Surrey's Round Up Cafe has long connected B.C.'s fastest-growing community to its humble roots.

The post-war family-run diner, known for its home-style breakfasts and Ukrainian fare, has lasted more than six decades on Surrey's King George Boulevard.

"It was a gathering spot," said co-owner Dennis Springenatic, whose parents bought the restaurant in 1959. It quickly became a cornerstone in the emerging Whalley neighbourhood.

"There was a lot of history here in the '60s and '70s. A lot of families grew up here," said Springenatic.

Bacon, eggs and perogies are among the specialty dishes at Surrey's Round Up Cafe.
Bacon, eggs and perogies are among the specialty dishes at Surrey's Round Up Cafe.(Round Up Cafe/Facebook)

But like many restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Round Up Cafe has fallen on hard times. It shut down for eight months in 2020, reopening in December. But Springenatic says it won't be able to recover from the latest round of "circuit breaker" restrictions, which have prohibited indoor dining throughout B.C.

Public health is expected to extend the health measures into May, according to the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association. The measures were originally set to expire on April 19.

Springenatic says the family plans to close the Round Up Cafe for good, as its limited patio seating can't generate enough business to keep the doors open.

"It wasn't on our terms to go out," he said. "It took a pandemic to shut us down, and it's disappointing."

Local landmark

The bright neon sign on the front of the building has been there longer than the Springenatic family has owned the business. Husband and wife restaurateurs Orest and Goldie Springenatic, Dennis's parents, purchased the property from its previous owners, who operated the restaurant under the same name.

After the first five years, the family got involved with Whalley Little League and helped build it up. The restaurant became a go-to spot for families after baseball and hockey tournaments.

A picture of Goldie and Orest Springenatic hangs on the wall inside the Round Up Cafe.
A picture of Goldie and Orest Springenatic hangs on the wall inside the Round Up Cafe.(Round Up Cafe/Facebook)

At night, more boisterous crowds would roll in. For the first two decades, it was open 24-7, and was steps away from local party hot spots like the since-demolished Flamingo Hotel.

"Back in the '70s when the nightclubs were rocking, a lot of people would come here after the bar shut down, and have fries and gravy," said Dennis Springenatic.

"It was a very family and community oriented place over the years."

Owner Goldie Springenatic bought the restaurant with her husband in 1959. The pair previously ran a restaurant in Boston Bar.
Owner Goldie Springenatic bought the restaurant with her husband in 1959. The pair previously ran a restaurant in Boston Bar.(Round Up Cafe/Facebook)

Last stand

The cafe is one of the few landmarks of its era still standing as new developments and highrises replace aging buildings.

Despite the family owning the building, the pandemic has made it difficult for them to keep up with operating costs. The recent indoor dining restrictions and their expected extension is enough to make them call it a day.

The restaurant's makeshift patio can sit about a dozen customers while the empty indoor dining area can seat more than 40.

"It's made it tough to even break even, and try to get ahead," said Springenatic. "It's discouraging for all the restaurants."

Springenatic says he doesn't know what's next for the decades-old site, but he says the family will likely try to rent out the building. As for the neon sign above, he hopes it can be maintained and displayed inside a local museum or heritage centre.

"The legacy is just ... really good memories."