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Aurora Bistro shuts down

November 24th, 2008 · 15 Comments


Okay, call me a hopeless bourgeois (as my friend Kim does whenever I admit to doing something like going to the art gallery), but it’s devastating news that Aurora Bistro has closed down on Main Street. It was my idea of the perfect restaurant — amazing, local, meticulously prepared food, along with a small comfortable room where the noise levels didn’t get crazy like in so many Vancouver places, and reasonable prices. Best of all, it was on Main.

According to various foodie blogs and sites around town, the owner just felt like he couldn’t make it in the tough economic times. There was a suggestion somewhere about Main Street landlords putting up their rents, which I wouldn’t be surprised at, with the explosion of west-side type restaurants there.

This would perhaps explain why so many other neighbourhood yuppies have migrated to Les Faux Bourgeois, at Fraser and 15th. (Just try getting a reservation there less than a week in advance. Or going as late as, say, 5:45 to try to get one of the few walk-in tables.)

Anyway, this is the kind of news that makes me cranky. It was bad enough that decent, needed businesses on Main were closing because of the gentrification (the beloved Shell station at 25th and Main, where guys who looked like they’d work there for 25 years would come and pump your gas; the drycleaners next to the Dairy Queen near 13th) and now this! Yuck.

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  • Wagamuffin

    OK, you’re bourgeois, FB…didn’t Aurora Bistro start out as another restaurant somewhere on the West Side? I’m sad to hear it’s gone down. It was a great place. But to keep that level of service and food up even in steadier times is a feat unto itself.

    The restaurant scene is littered with corpses of those who stayed too long, charged too much/too little, etc, never changed, etc.

    The restaurant business in this town is littered with the “Maillard reaction” charred chefs who got burned trying to be businessmen (or not trying to be businessmen hard enough), and who have failed miserably at it. RIP Ken Bogas & Rob Feenie.

    One of the happier success stories in the city is the one over at Chambar on Beatty. A 96 page business plan that charted a course, planned for contingencies like rent, has managed to keep its delicious offerings in a competive price range with unending quality is something that all restauranteurs could learn from.

  • I wouldn’t call Aurora Bistro’s prices affordable. It was an upscale restaurant, in a neighbourhood that is still very much on the cheaper side of things (and I say this living in the area, on Main Street myself, near King Edward Avenue).

    My experience with Aurora Bistro was bad the one time I went there (and never came back) but a lot of people loved it and I think it was a great addition to the area.

    Every time a closure occurs, one ponders whether it’s the result of a larger economic downturn or a specific case.

    On my own blog, I do my best to promote a lot of the restaurants around Main, and I eat within Mount Pleasant very, very, very often. I think we should promote local business as much as possible

    On a side note, congrats on your nomination in the Canadian Blog Awards. I linked to you on my blog listing.


  • Oh no! So sad!

    Aurora wasn’t the most affordable place, but did have great seasonal specials like three courses with wine for $50.

    I wonder where Jeff Van Geest will end up…

  • gastrobbie

    Wagamuffin’s right, sadly. Aurora’s demise has more to do with poor business practices than the sublime food they were serving, once again proving that great chefs don’t always make great business people.
    When a business struggles to make ends meet during the boom times, it stands little or no chance or surviving the lean years.
    If you’re hungry and in the mood for Italian, check out Campagnolo next to the Ivanhoe on Main St. about 8 blocks north. Robert Belcham’s (fuel) new place. It should be open for business on Friday, my sources tell me.

  • Tim Agg

    For the last 5 years it was a wonderful treat to have Aurora within walking distance of home. We have eaten, and taken guests, there many times, and never had a meal we didn’t thoroughly enjoy. And a great BC Wine list,too! Too bad for MtPLeasant.

  • Sarah Blyth

    Antisocial skateboard shop/art gallery/mini ramp is closing soon. Very sad. They are currently looking for a new location.

  • Patrick

    on the other hand, let’s give a warm welcome to the Coppertank to the neighbourhood. *ack*

  • I walked by their yesterday and wondered if they were normally closed on Monday nights, because all the lights were off.

  • MB

    I wonder what the Reef has that Aurora didn’t to make it so successful?

  • Bill Lee

    Aurora does lament its closing on :

    One comment was “Not the Same since chef Dan Tigchelaar left” ??

    Major foodie announcement on 19 November. Would you believe
    287,000 for the three words aurora bistro closing? Now many
    are for closing of others, but we are expecting that as the
    foodie elite kiddies lose their trust funds.
    But business funding is going to be difficult, “liquidity” won’t
    be there for a couple of years.
    See the lack of letters of credit and shipping container issues
    in the news as an example of simple things that are gummed up.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Sad, great place good food and very reasonably priced for what you were getting. Value for the dollar: Super.

    Even more sad was the best value for the dollar restaurant in this city: Picasso Cafe, shut down by the first incarnation of the current Fiberals in Victoria.

    Shameful. Staffed by kids who were looking for a hand up, not a hand out. Many great chefs left there and went on to do wonders in life, for themselves and others.

    I guess Gordon didn’t like the foie gras…

    Very stupid move. Should encourage kids to stay off the streets and not kill vehicles to keep them off the crap.

  • Stephanie

    I loved Aurora. Back in 2003 my partner and I lived across the street, and he worked at Pulpfiction books next door. Jeff and Melanie were in there around the clock, doing things like finishing the floors themselves. They worked very hard to make that place happen.

    My 40th birthday, a dinner for 24 out-of-town guests, brunches with my parents, Pulp’s staff parties, one very memorable New Year’s – every meal was wonderful. What I especially loved about the place was how genuinely friendly they were, equally welcoming to west side foodies heading over to Main and those of us in the neighbourhood who were less monied.

    I wish them well in whatever they do next.

  • Stephanie

    One more comment: yes, the owner of that building has been jacking the rents up like crazy.

    Sarah – why is Antisocial moving?

  • Don

    This is news? AGT makes a valid point about a wider policy issue but otherwise the term parochial comes to mind….

    Restaurants come and go all the time. Bad ones and good ones too. And linking one anecdotal event to wider issues is suspect to say the least. Just look at Denman over the past 20 years.

    I’m genuinely disappointed by this and the amount of response it’s generated. 😉


    Otherwise love the blog Frances.

  • Bill Lee

    The West Ender free paper (WE in boxes around town)
    food columnist Andrew Morrison (also blogs) talks about the
    crisis built up by the Aurora closing.

    Linkname: ON THE PLATE: In tough times, restaurants rethink their