Monk McQueens, the longtime landmark seafood restaurant, is closing its doors after a New Year's Eve bash celebrating 26 years on False Creek's waterfront.
Monks' story is also that of its owner, Robert Lindsay, known simply as Bob to thousands of past employees, other restaurateurs and his fellow board directors at Tourism Vancouver.
He said he finds it bittersweet saying goodbye to the successful business, but that the timing is right.
"I am sad. It's a business and that's why we've been around so long, because we treat it like a business," said Lindsay, adding each of the different places he's owned from Calgary to Vancouver to Whistler become more than simply restaurants.
"You always fall in love with them."
Lindsay is a transplant from Calgary who studied at Ryerson University and who also owns LIFT Bar & Grill in Coal Harbour, which opened eight years ago. Monk McQueens, named for a classic West Coast wooden boat by designer Ed Monk, is Lindsay's second restaurant to reach 26 years. The other was the former Cannery Row in Calgary.
"Restaurants don't last 25 years," said Lindsay, noting location, people and business savvy all contributed to Monks unusual longevity in a volatile industry.
With over a quarter century of memories, Lindsay still points to Monks' first days as among his favourite
"We opened during Expo and so for six months it was just magic. I mean, the fireworks right off your front deck every night for six months, how do you beat that?" Lindsay said.
Though Monk McQueens is moving on, Lindsay is sticking around. He perhaps has a closer connection than most owners, having helped to physically build Monks on the site that sat empty for eight years before he and two Albertan partners bought it.
He'll keep ownership of what he says is the best waterfront patio in Vancouver as landlord to the new restaurant - Mahony & Sons Stamps Landing -- which was selected after a five-year search for the right business to replace Monk McQueens.
"We want it to remain an iconic site and we think we've chosen the right restaurant group to go in there. They're young and aggressive and they're raring to go," Lindsay said.
Mahony & Sons, as the name implies, is a family-owned business that operates two Irish pubs in Vancouver. Stamps Landing will maintain the Irish ambiance of their other sites but it will be a restaurant open to all ages said Chris Mahony, a manager and one of six family members in the business.
"It's been a Vancouver landmark and with the new expansion of the Olympic village I feel it's a sort of a new beginning to this area," said Mahony, adding that community involvement is important to his family. "We're looking forward to making the neighbourhood a better place."
They plan to gut the interior and completely refurbish the place with a modern look consistent with the Mahony brand. It's scheduled to opens in the fall and will employ over 100 staff.
Claire Clarke, on staff since 2001 and Monks' current operations manager, said that though many are sad to see it go, they plan to go out with a bang.
"Most of our customers _ understand it's the end of an era and that Monks is retiring," said Clarke, adding that many of the staff that first opened the store will be there to see it shut down in style.
Lindsay said New Years Eve is the "perfect date" as it represents the end as well as a new beginning, both for the new owners and maybe even for him.
"I still have a couple restaurants in me."
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