The Tommy O's restaurant in east Vancouver will close for good after business hours on Saturday, allowing owner and longtime local restaurateur Tom Owens to focus on his flagship downtown venue.
"It's time for me to get back to my roots downtown. I love what I do. It will all work out," said Owens, known by patrons for his laid-back, surfer dude persona.
He listed faltering sales and higher leasing costs on the east side as the primary reasons for closing the site, which opened in December 2008 as Tommy O's Pacific Rim Grill. The restaurant employs a staff of 25 people at 4101 S.E. 192nd Ave., in the QFC-anchored Fisher's Terrace retail complex. Killian Pacific, Vancouver-based owner of the property, could not be reached for comment about plans for the building.
Looking back, Owens said he would change very little about his decision to open the second restaurant. He signed the lease just after the stock market took a nose dive in October 2008.
"It was just the timing," he said "I penciled it out and thought it would be able to support the expenses."
Owens tried to set the venue apart from his downtown restaurant, giving the east-side site a fancier, grill-style menu and sushi. He also played up the restaurant's interior with exotic wood paneling and table settings of polished silver against black linen.
Owens, 60, learned the restaurant business by working his way up the ladder at the Chart House restaurant chain. His first solo venture was a 12-seat lunch counter off Columbia Street and Evergreen Boulevard. He closed the popular deli and opened Tommy O's in 2003 at the corner of Washington and East Eighth streets downtown.
"I've never been in this situation before," Owens said of the east-side restaurant's closure. He plans to follow through with support for fundraising events in the area, such as the Concerts for a Cause series at Camas Meadows and the Camas Farmer's Market.
"We're going to be active in the community," he said, adding that he also would consider another east-side location in the future. He had hoped to draw the business lunch crowd from nearby companies stationed on both sides of the Vancouver and Camas border, which runs parallel to 192nd. Owens also had hoped to attract dinner patrons from a wide variety of nearby housing, ranging from modest condominiums to upscale, custom-built homes.
In the meantime, the downtown Tommy O's remains open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, and its lounge offers a daily happy hour and weekend entertainment. Owens said he plans to blend some of the entrees from his east-side venue with the downtown restaurant's menu.
"We're bringing the best of what we accomplished (in east Vancouver) to the downtown site," he said.