Granville Island’s iconic Bridges Restaurant has been sold—but it’s staying in the family.
Tap & Barrel founder Daniel Frankel has purchased the bright yellow business with its massive 300-seat patio overlooking False Creek.
In 1976, Frankel’s uncle, Michael Seelig, a city planner, and the late Nathan Divinsky, a math whiz and chess master (who could write complex equations on a chalk blackboard using both hands), both UBC professors, dreamed of opening a pub. At the time, the Province of British Columbia was promoting the idea of local pubs where residents could get to know their neighbours in the same way that pub culture thrives in England.
Seelig was familiar with the proposed renewal of a derelict industrial area known as Granville Island. He and Divinsky turned to Abe Sacks, president of Tree Island Steel, for business guidance. Along with Divinsky’s then-spouse Kim Campbell (in her pre-Prime Minister of Canada days), they submitted a proposal to redevelop the Arrow Transfer building, a vacant warehouse, beating out 30 other groups.
They conceptualized Bridges, forming a partnership that included Manny Glasser and, later, Frankel’s parents, George and Tamara. The pub started to serve the public at the end of December 1980; the bistro and dining room opened the following year.
“Bridges is what moved my family to Vancouver in 1979 [from Israel],” Frankel said in a statement. "I have had a strong emotional connection to Bridges and Granville Island throughout my life. I’m proud of its legacy and will do the city proud with a concept unlike any other this country has ever seen.
“Bridges has had a great deal of influence on me,” he said. “I fell in love with the alfresco dining concept, which Bridges pioneered. It inspired me to build these expansive patios that bring the community together and create an unprecedented energy.”
Frankel opened the first Tap & Barrel in 2012 in Olympic Village. He plans to reinvent Bridges with a local-centric concept focused on environmental stewardship, bringing over Tap & Barrel initiatives like serving B.C. wine and indie craft beer exclusively on tap and using repurposed building materials, while supporting local and Canadian producers and artists. Tap & Barrel, which includes two other locations, the recently opened BREWHALL brewery concept, and smaller TAPshack locations, has a large fine-art collection.
Bridges will continue to operate until reno plans are finalized. At that point, the upper level of the restaurant will stay open while the ground floor space and menu are being revamped.
“We are very excited to welcome Tap & Barrel to the Granville Island community, and to see Bridges’ legacy continue with this second generation of restauranteurs,” said Lois McGrath, Granville Island’s general manager. “Their concept greatly aligns with the planning and vision for the future of Granville Island. There is a huge opportunity to draw more people to the island for the arts, local dining, and night-time activity.”
Fun facts: Since it opened, Bridges has become a Vancouver landmark; airline pilots even use the canary-coloured building as an orientation point. It boasts having provided jobs to 10,000 people, served over five million customers, sold 200 tons of fresh BC salmon, 700,000 orders of fish and chips, and two million litres of beer.More