The popular downtown Vancouver brewpub Low Bar is set to close permanently due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the business’s landlord, Bruno Amicci, and its owner, Tyler Garza. The details of the closure are still being worked out, Garza said.
Amicci opened Low Bar in 2012 at 809 Washington St. in partnership with Nate Barile and Keith Pemberton. It was among the first of what became a wave of new restaurants and bars to set up shop in downtown Vancouver during the past decade, revitalizing the long-struggling core of the city.
“I’d say they definitely helped spark the restaurant renaissance,” Garza said. “Vancouver’s growing a lot in the restaurant scene, and I was really happy to be part of that wave.”
Amicci bought out the other founders in 2016, and Garza bought the business last year after working there for three years. Amicci retained ownership of the building.
Low Bar has been closed since mid-March when Washington’s statewide stay-at-home order went into effect. Garza said he initially tried to switch to a to-go service model, but it quickly proved to be unworkable, particularly after one of the bar’s refrigerators failed.
Garza said he contemplated applying for a federal Payroll Protection Program loan, but concluded that he wouldn’t be able to keep the bar operating at the level necessary to fulfill its conditions, such as keeping most of the staff employed.
He said he was also concerned about the potential for a resurgence of the virus this fall, so he opted to make the temporary closure permanent.
There were a few other factors that had made things rocky for the bar in recent months, such as a January minimum wage hike, Garza said. He also wants to spend more time with his family. But the COVID-19 outbreak was the main culprit.
“I was a week or two away from really turning a corner and then the pandemic hit,” he said.
Garza said he enjoys the restaurant industry and would consider trying to work on a new food venture, but not until the pandemic is over and the long-term status of the restaurant industry has become clear.
“I don’t know if the pandemic is going to allow the old business models to continue,” he said.
Amicci expressed similar concern about the impact of the pandemic, both on the restaurant industry in general and on the downtown Vancouver scene in particular. He called Garza’s decision “painful but wise,” and said he expects that many more restaurants will be forced to close in the next year.
Low Bar’s neighbor, Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro, closed in December.
“Low Bar was a fresh new concept in 2012 and has become a mainstay of downtown,” Amicci wrote in an email. “It will be missed. I don’t think it can ever be replaced.”