Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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Torque Coffee moving to former Red Lion

Downtown coffee shop likes the parking lot not blocked by traffic jams

By , Columbian Business Reporter
Published:

First, the bad news: Torque Coffee is closing its airy downtown Vancouver coffee shop across from the Hilton.

The good news: Torque Coffee is reopening in more upscale quarters just a few blocks away at the old Red Lion Inn at the Quay.

The coffee roaster and cafe told The Columbian Tuesday it would be the newest tenant at the Port of Vancouver-owned Terminal One on the waterfront.

“It’s going to be mind-blowing,” Torque owner Ryan Palmer said as he stood inside the former bar with Columbia River views on the east edge of the hotel. “And there are 270 free parking spaces.”

The Red Lion only closed in October, but Palmer said he’s been talking with the port about the move for a few years. Port officials said they are working toward a one-year lease agreement with Torque.

“We certainly are willing to discuss longer-term agreements/leases at the site, but there are lot of unknowns because of where we are in the redevelopment process,” Port spokeswoman Abbi Russell said.

The Port of Vancouver has not yet finalized its master plan for the 10-acre Terminal One property, which adjoins the larger Columbia Waterfront redevelopment site.

Russell said the port will be upgrading the space to accommodate Torque’s presence, including utility and structural improvements.

“It’s exactly what we’ve envisioned for the site: partnering with the downtown community, bringing businesses in that are already a part of the community or blend well with it and keeping our property alive and vibrant as we move forward with master planning, and, eventually, construction,” Russell said in an email.

Torque’s current location at 501 Columbia St. will likely close Thursday. Palmer said he’s hopeful the new space down the street, where Columbia Way and Columbia Street meet, can be fully open soon.

Palmer currently is moving equipment to the old hotel, which a biotechnology company is also getting ready to inhabit soon.

On Tuesday, the low-light dining space still looked like the storied corner of the Quay. Though some of the old fixtures will remain — with new finishes and paint — Palmer said new lighting will brighten the place.

“Our old space was cold,” Palmer said of the brick-and-glass building with high ceilings and concrete floors. “We want something warmer.”

Walking around and inspecting every piece of duct tape and trim in need of love, Palmer rattled off the new cafe site’s perks — a patio, a connection to the river walkway, stunning views, and an abundance of parking spaces for what remains a largely vacant building.

He said the biggest reason for moving was the parking issue. Every morning until 10 a.m., he watches traffic slowly merge onto the Interstate 5 bridge, blocking access to the few nearby parking spots.

A potential downside is that the waterfront site is more distant for downtown pedestrians and may draw less foot traffic. Also, the port has seen some vagrancy in the area since the Red Lion’s closure, as well as some property damage, including still-fresh graffiti above the roof.

“We have been working with the city of Vancouver to manage some health and safety issues related to transient camps near the amphitheater,” Russell said. “We do have around-the-clock security at Terminal One and cameras, as well, which are monitored by our security force here at the port.”

Palmer said he is staying positive, however, and has faith in the city’s waterfront frontier and his shop’s own future there.

Brooks Johnson: 360-735-4547; brooks.johnson@columbian.com; twitter.com/readbrooks

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