Dock Lunch, the tiny Vancouver restaurant that built a tight-knit community, has served its last meal

Elizabeth Bryan, owner of Dock Lunch, says she was caught off guard when told by her landlord that the building where she did business was being renovated and would no longer be able to accommodate her restaurant. (CBC News - image credit)
Elizabeth Bryan, owner of Dock Lunch, says she was caught off guard when told by her landlord that the building where she did business was being renovated and would no longer be able to accommodate her restaurant. (CBC News - image credit)

A well loved Vancouver restaurant was forced to close its doors last week because the building's upcoming renovations will render the space unfit for a food business.

Tucked away just off Main Street in Mount Pleasant, Dock Lunch served a handful of customers a day in its small, book-lined space from a menu of about five options that was updated daily.

"The customers have always been the best part ... they're my people," said owner Elizabeth Bryan at the restaurant's moving out garage sale on Saturday.

The cosy restaurant, which contained just three tables that would spill out onto the sidewalk in the summer, had a small but loyal following.

"I'm not even the best cook, but I love inviting people into my space and hosting and talking to them and serving them and getting to know them," Bryan said.

CBC News
CBC News

Bryan was expecting to pause her business starting Jan. 1 for a few months while the building's owner renovated the space.

She was even prepared for an inevitable rent increase following the renovations.

But just before serving the last dinner on New Year's Eve, Bryan's landlord informed her the renovations wouldn't allow for a food business to operate in the space.

"It's been determined that coming back as a food premises would simply be more trouble than it's worth," said Bryan.

Long-time regular customer Tony Sell, who works in the neighborhood, said Dock Lunch was his go-to lunch break spot.

"I didn't have to think about what I'm having for lunch. It'd be something different every day. And it was always good," Sell said.

He says he will miss the restaurant's southern-style biscuits and, above all, Bryan's warm service.

"I'm really going to miss having her around. It's nice to have a friend who always cared about whether I was getting fed," he said, adding that there was a community that came with Dock Lunch.

"This was kind of an unintentional gathering place for a bunch of people ... It's so off the wall but so right. It's just perfect."

An exorcism and sandwiches

The space has a fittingly quirky backstory.

Bryan says she rented the space to live in in 2000, sleeping in a loft above the kitchen.

Her mother was convinced the place was haunted, Bryan said, and eventually brought in a priest to perform an exorcism.

Bryan would host Sunday night dinner parties, which became so notorious that people would beg for tickets.

She started selling sandwiches out her front window in 2012, making a different sandwich for up to five customers every day, until a city employee said she needed to get proper permits if she wanted to run a business.

The health permit required Bryan to move out, and she began running Dock Lunch in the space in 2014.