Inuvik's Highway Restaurant, Shivers Lounge set to close, leaving town in the lurch

·2 min read
This Saturday will be the last night for Shivers Lounge and The Highway Restaurant, both of which were in Inuvik's MacKenzie Hotel. The lease expires Aug. 31. (Karli Zschogner/CBC - image credit)
This Saturday will be the last night for Shivers Lounge and The Highway Restaurant, both of which were in Inuvik's MacKenzie Hotel. The lease expires Aug. 31. (Karli Zschogner/CBC - image credit)

Only a few months after returning to in-person business, the restaurant and lounge within Inuvik's MacKenzie Hotel will be closing again. They were among the few spots in the town where people could sit down for an evening meal.

Hotel general manager Vince Brown confirmed in an email that the lease for the Highway Restaurant — formerly the MacKenzie Grill — and Shivers Lounge, which expires Aug. 31, has not been renewed.

The lounge and restaurant were among the few places where residents could go out to eat in the Beaufort Delta hub. Their closure will leave The Roost, a fast-food joint with limited seating, and Alestine's, a backyard restaurant run partly out of a converted school bus.

Karli Zschogner/CBC
Karli Zschogner/CBC

The community is also at risk of losing Alestine's. Owners Brian and Pam Macdonald, who own and run the restaurant, told CBC News Wednesday they plan to retire in the near future.

Inuvik Mayor Clarence Wood said the closures will have an impact on the region and its visitors, and is urging someone to take over the businesses.

"With the options here in town right now, someone could make a killing," Wood said. "I mean, people are just dying for a restaurant where you can take a family and sit down and eat."

Karli Zschogner/CBC
Karli Zschogner/CBC

Jackie Challis, the town's director of economic development and tourism, echoed Wood's concerns that the closures will affect tourism.

"Absolutely, and of course the lack of restaurant options in our community has a detrimental effect on visitors and residents," she said.

"Sadly, however, this is not a new challenge. It is one that we have faced for many years."

Challis cited the high cost of infrastructure and energy, as well as staffing issues, as chronic problems that make it challenging for restaurateurs to stay in business.

Paul Clarke, the current leaseholder and owner of the hotel and lounge, declined an interview. In a text message, he said constant staff shortages were one reason for the closure.

At the Inuvik airport, Clarke and his son also own and manage Cloud 9 Cafeteria, now called Highway Express, which reopened mid-July. Clarke said it will remain open for its breakfast and lunch.

The last day for Shivers Lounge and The Highway Restaurant will be Saturday night.

Brown said he's looking for a new operator and is hopeful the restaurants aren't gone for good.