Woody’s Tacos is returning to downtown Vancouver, but central Vancouver residents won’t have to say adios to their popular restaurant.
Owner Scott Holzinger said he plans to keep operating the restaurant’s current location at 7900 E. Mill Plain Blvd. and add a second restaurant at 809 Washington St.
The new Woody’s takes the spot previously held by Low Bar. The bar shut its doors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and owner Tyler Garza announced earlier this month that the closure had become permanent.
Holzinger has signed a five-year lease, according to landlord Bruno Amicci, who said he had been seeking a well-known business with multiple locations.
The lease takes effect June 1, and Holzinger said he hopes to be able to start serving to-go orders as soon as July 1, with interior renovations continuing alongside the carry-out service. He said he wants to improve the lighting and add a wall to separate the bar from the dining room so that minors can be allowed inside.
The downtown eatery will include outdoor seating, and Holzinger said he’ll consider adding a walk-up window, although he isn’t sure if it would be practical in the rainy Pacific Northwest climate.
“If I do a walk-up window, it’ll be down the line,” he said. “It won’t be too quick.”
The decision to open a restaurant during the pandemic is unusual, Holzinger acknowledged — the past two months have seen a steady stream of headlines heralding the demise of various restaurants that have been unable to survive in an environment that has forced eateries to either temporarily shut down or switch to carry-out and delivery.
Holzinger said the Mill Plain Woody’s closed for the first six weeks of the pandemic, but reopened for carry-out service about three weeks ago. Business has been better than expected, he said, which is part of what convinced him that the downtown location would be viable — that and the restaurant’s strong following and name recognition in the downtown area.
“The only reason I’m doing this is because we are Woody’s Tacos,” he said.
The new location brings Woody’s back to its roots — the taco shop operated out of the downtown Vancouver Marketplace building for 10 years until late 2018. The new downtown location is about three blocks from the old site.
The 2018 move was prompted by a dispute with the state Liquor and Cannabis Board over alcohol sales. The Vancouver Marketplace features street-facing restaurant suites that connect to a brick-paved interior courtyard with communal seating. Holzinger was informed in September 2018 that he needed to stop serving alcohol to customers in the courtyard because it is considered a public area.
At the time, Holzinger said it would be too expensive to renovate his tiny restaurant space, so he opted to close and focus his efforts on the Mill Plain location. The Vancouver Marketplace suite is now home to a Georgian restaurant called Dediko.
Holzinger said when he closed downtown he’d been developing Mill Plain as a second location, complete with a full set of new kitchen equipment, so he still has the original location’s equipment on hand to use at the new site.
“I have a storage unit with a complete restaurant in it,” he said.