Tim Louis: Vancouver lost a treasure—a toast to John Bishop

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      I was so terribly sad to recently become aware of the fact that Adam Smith’invisible hand is at work in Kitsilano.

      In the Spring of 1985, six months after I had opened my law firm, a remarkable man—John Bishop—opened his incredible restaurant, Bishop’s, on West 4th Avenue. Over the years, my partner Penny and I enjoyed the most beautiful of experiences of not just dining at Bishop’s but with him. While his West Coast food was always exquisite, one never dined at Bishop’s without feasting on the most appetizing entrée that was not listed on the menu—a rich and meaningful conversation with John himself.

      John did not know the meaning of the word banal. Every conversation was full of tasty, meaningful morsels—his childhood, his work experience in the hospitality industry before Bishop’s, and his very genuine interest in the people around him, including us. He seemed to have an encyclopedic memory, and even if it had been a year since our last visit, he would remember what we had told him previously about what we were up to.

      On many occasions, at the successful conclusion of a difficult lawsuit, I would bring my client to Bishop’s for a victory celebration. My clients would never leave the restaurant without remarking on the how much they had enjoyed their conversations with John.

      John was a trailblazer. He pioneered West Coast cuisine and of equal importance, the use of locally sourced ingredients. He did so long prior to the now accepted awareness of climate change and global warming.

      In 2004, John kindly agreed to my invitation to sit on the City of Vancouver’s brand new Food Policy Council, which I helped to establish during my second term on Vancouver city council. John’s wealth of knowledge and name recognition was of enormous benefit to the groundbreaking work of the Food Policy Council, which developed Vancouver’s Food Charter and inspired the City’s ongoing Food Strategy.

      And then, a few months ago, along came Adam Smith’s invisible hand. John’s landlord passed away. 

      At the time, John was paying $34 per square foot triple net rent for the restaurant space. This meant that, per year, John paid an amount of money equal to this rate times his square footage and on top of that, paid every single imaginable expense the landlord might incur, including the City of Vancouver’s enormous property taxes.

      The deceased landlord’s estate then sold the building that housed John’s restaurant to a new owner. This new owner then demanded $100 per square foot triple net rent and rubbing salt in the wound, brought in a surveyor who remeasured the property and concluded that the 1,500 square feet John had been paying for over the last 36 years really should be 1,800 square feet.

      It was simply not financially feasible for John to continue. And so, on December 31, 2021, John served his last meal at Bishop’s and Vancouver lost a treasure.

      I raise a toast to John Bishop, a highly skilled chef, a consummate host, and a fine human being.

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blogThe Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.