The end of an era: Raga Restaurant closes after 40 magnificent years in Vancouver

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      Tonight, a landmark Vancouver restaurant is serving its final customers.

      Raga Restaurant is closing because of the pending sale of its building at 1177 West Broadway, according to owner Raj Sharma.

      The restaurant is on the first floor of the office tower on the site, which was owned by businessman Ronald S. Roadburg until his death on May 17, 2021.

      It's now owned by the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation, a registered charity created to strengthen the Jewish community, alleviate chronic problems in society, and help shield at-risk communities from racism and violence.

      Sharma told the Straight by phone that the charity offered him a lease, which would give a new buyer an opportunity to terminate it by giving one year's notice.

      Sharma declined the offer.

      "Hopefully, we find a smaller spot," Sharma said. "And then, we will carry on with our name. Not right away. We'll take a break."

      The vegetaria thalis were a hit at Raga.
      Charlie Smith

      Raga opened in 1981 and was taken over by Sharma in 1988, who served authentic North Indian cuisine in a mellow and tastefully designed room.

      The food was consistently excellent, which is not easy to do for so many years. And Sharma was a consummate host, along with having a flair for great storytelling.

      Sharma's nephew Ricky has been a constant presence, diligently serving customers with grace and dedication. Sharma said that Ricky is also going to take a break and he'll be the one to decide on any future plans for the restaurant.

      Raga combined the importance of good cooking with a welcoming décor.
      Charlie Smith

      Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Raga has seen its takeout business grow astronomically. It also expanded its vegetarian offerings.

      "Now, our regulars want to have our food, freeze it, and eat it," Sharma said.

      However, the development of the Broadway subway project eliminated street parking outside the restaurant, inconveniencing some customers.

      It's the second long-standing restaurant to close on Vancouver's West Side this month due to a change or pending change in ownership of the building.

      John Bishop shuttered his iconic 36-year-old dining establishment, Bishop's, after a new building owner demanded what he called a "whopping rent increase".

      Over the years, Raga hosted many celebrities—such as Goldie Hawn, Sarah McLachlan, Mel Gibson, and Ravi Shankar—and a who's who in the Indo Canadian community.

      In the words one of those diners, well-known broadcaster Shushma Datt, it's "very sad to hear they have closed".