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May 21, 2022

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Downtown Vancouver’s UnderBar raises profile with cart

Food truck in outdoor dining area offers street-level food, drinks

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
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4 Photos
UnderBar owner Kurt Van Orden looks over the new food cart in the bar's expansion in Uptown Village on Friday afternoon.
UnderBar owner Kurt Van Orden looks over the new food cart in the bar's expansion in Uptown Village on Friday afternoon. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A speakeasy called UnderBar has emerged from the dark, moody basement of a downtown Vancouver building and expanded to a nearby outdoor area with a food cart.

Co-owner and founder Kurt Van Orden constructed the wood-fenced outdoor area with a gazebo, which seats about 20, about six months ago. About six weeks ago, Van Orden opened a food cart to border the outdoor area and serve burgers, sandwiches, fries and more. Servers are also able to deliver drinks to the outdoor area, he said. The additional space and the food cart cost about $50,000, he said.

UnderBar, at 1701½ Broadway, has been open since June 2018 and is the first and only speakeasy in Vancouver, according to its website.

Van Orden had been eyeing the expansion since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but once it hit and outdoor dining became commonplace in downtown Vancouver, plans came together.

“It’s a place where people in the neighborhood get together,” Van Orden said.

The food cart’s placement is still in its experimental phase, and Van Orden said he is going to move the cart next month to a spot on Main Street where there’s more foot traffic downtown.

The bar offers trivia nights, open mic nights, comedy nights and adult bingo on occasion. The bar also specializes in offering private events.

Van Orden said that like many other restaurants and bars in Vancouver, staffing remains a challenge. But Van Orden gave his six employees a raise recently to keep them.

UnderBar is one of a handful of businesses that Van Orden owns. He’s also the owner of Cowlitz Packaging Group, which provides custom packaging, and Empaqt, a homebuilder.

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