Vancouver riverside restaurant and event space WareHouse ’23 has officially announced that it will close permanently at the end of the year.
“Our last big night will be New Year’s Eve 2020,” said owner Mark Matthias, a local restaurateur who also owns the Beaches restaurant franchise.
WareHouse ’23 posted the news to its Facebook page last week, although the closure has always been in the cards; Matthias opened the restaurant in 2016 with the understanding that it would only operate for about four years.
The Port of Vancouver updated the restaurant’s lease in November, pushing the final exit date back from Dec. 31, 2020, to Feb. 15, 2021. The extra six weeks are intended to give Matthias time to clear out the restaurant space after the New Year’s celebration, although he estimated that process would only take about two weeks.
The restaurant and its adjacent event space sit inside the former Red Lion Hotel building at the port-owned Terminal 1 property, directly west of the Interstate 5 Bridge. The building first opened as a prune warehouse in 1923 and was later converted into The Quay Restaurant. Red Lion took over the building in 1962, maintaining the restaurant and adding hotel rooms.
“This is a real iconic building,” Matthias said.
The port is pursuing a plan to redevelop the entire 10-acre Terminal 1 area to add a new hotel and several mixed-use buildings. The planned centerpiece would be a new community market building akin to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, replacing the Red Lion building.
The Red Lion closed in 2015, but it would be years before the Terminal 1 project could break ground, so the port reached a deal with Matthias to bring the space back to life in the interim by remodeling the restaurant space and opening WareHouse ’23.
Since then, the restaurant has served as a community gathering point and a frequent lunch and dinner event venue for local businesses, organizations and nonprofits.
“It’s been a fun project,” Matthias said. “It was nice to be able to reopen the events space and take care of all the nonprofits in town.”
The port and development partner Vesta Hospitality broke ground last year on the first Terminal 1 project, the future AC Hotel by Marriott. Next year, crews will begin demolishing the old Red Lion building in preparation for work on the structure below. The building sits on a century-old pier that will need to be rebuilt to support the future market center.
Matthias said he plans to go out big, marking the building’s final months with a series of events that commemorate its decades-long legacy as a hub for the downtown Vancouver community.
In the longer term, Matthias said he hopes to open a new project at the completed Terminal 1, although the idea is still on the drawing board and he doesn’t yet know what the concept would look like. Port officials have also expressed enthusiasm about the possibility, although there’s no specific agreement in place.
For the moment, Matthias said he plans to focus on keeping the event schedule packed for this year and giving the building a great send-off.
“We’re still open now, we’re still having a lot of events,” he said.