The thrill is gone: Bishop's Restaurant closes in Kitsilano after a whopping rent increase

Owner John Bishop mentored some of the city's finest chefs and gave birth to the farm-to-table concept in Vancouver

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      A landmark Vancouver dining establishment has served its final meal.

      After more than 36 years on West 4th Avenue, Bishop's Restaurant has closed.

      According to owner John Bishop, "a new landlord and a whopping rent increase made it impossible to continue."

      “It turns out Vancouver isn’t just an expensive place to live, it’s also an incredibly expensive place to do business," Bishop said in a news release. "Every restaurant and neighbourhood business knows that first-hand. With the help of our staff and customers, we made it through the worst of the pandemic, but a hefty rent increase, particularly these days, made it impossible to think about continuing.”  

      Bishop's opened in 1985 and won a multitude of awards over the years for its Pacific Northwest cuisine and its outstanding service.

      “Within six months of opening, we did dinner for Pierre Trudeau, a dinner for 20 people,” Bishop told the Straight in 2015 on his restaurant's 30th anniversary. “He travelled without security. Not long ago, we did dinner for [then] Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The security was unbelievable. There were people with sniffing dogs; I had people in the kitchen standing over my shoulder.”

      In the same interview, he revealed how challenging it was preparing dinner for world leaders Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin when they held a summit in Vancouver. 

      “It started out as a table of 14 that expanded to 75," Bishop said at the time. "For months leading up to it, there was security: phones tapped, food tested. Then when the time came, it was like a rock ’n’ roll show: they brought in two jumbo jets. They brought all their own plates and all their own flowers. We were locked in all day because of security."

      That meal was at Seasons in the Park. Bishop's has hosted many other celebrities, including Robert De Niro and Sean Penn.

      Bishop pioneered the farm-to-table concept in Vancouver, resulting in a stampede of other high-end restaurants putting a premium on fresh ingredients. He also led the way in turning West 4th Avenue into a dining hot spot in the early part of the 21st century.

      Prior to opening his restaurant, Bishop worked for famed restaurateur Umberto Menghi. Once Bishop had his own dining room, he hired others who went on to become famous chefs, including Vikram Vij (Vij's), Andrea Carlson (Burdock & Co.), and Michel Jacob (Le Crocodile).

      In 2008, he suffered a minor stroke after returning home after a busy Saturday night in the restaurant. True to form, he was back in the restaurant not long afterward and continued working for more than 13 years.