Former Empire Granville 7 space set to convert into hospitality hub

Vancouver city council approves liquor licence for 350-seat restaurant and 644-seat venue in long-vacant site

Empire Granville 7 has been vacant for about seven years | City of Vancouver

Vancouver city council has signalled that it is onside with a major redevelopment that would transform a dead zone in the middle of downtown Vancouver.

Council on March 13 unanimously approved a liquor licence for Cineplex Entertainment LP to operate a massive hospitality hub in a site at 855 Granville Street, where before November 2012 there was a large theatre complex known as Empire Granville 7. The site has since sat vacant, although efforts started in earnest to redevelop the site starting in mid-2017.

Cineplex calls its multi-level entertainment concept Rec Room, and the liquor licence is for a restaurant that would include 61 seats inside and 314 seats on an outdoor patio on the rooftop third floor of the building. Council also approved a liquor licence for a 646-person venue in the site’s basement, which could be rented out to private hosts who could hold events such as karaoke or a comedy show.

“This is the green light for Cineplex to go ahead with the whole concept,” said Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association CEO Charles Gauthier.

He said he doubts that Cineplex would move forward with the hospitality venue had it not also gained approval for liquor service in the non-restaurant venue.

Cineplex had to do some wheeling and dealing in order to have its application be considered.

Support for the application is subject to Cineplex closing a deal with Republic Enterprises Ltd., which runs the Republic Night Club at 958 Granville Street under its Safe and Sound Entertainment banner, to have that business cancel its liquor licence, which is good for 277 existing seats. Cineplex would then apply for a new liquor licence that would include those seats.

Cineplex would still be 98 seats short of the 375 seats that the city approved for liquor service, but approval is what staff recommended.

The move to approve the project despite the fact that the city was adding 98 seats of liquor-primary seats to Granville Street’s entertainment district is significant because past councils have had a moratorium on new liquor primary spaces on the strip.

Adding to Gauthier’s excitement about the future of the hospitality scene on the Granville Street strip is Blueprint’s plan to soon open a new Colony pub in space in which it previously operated the Caprice nightclub.

That pub, at 967 Granville Street, is expected to cater to customers earlier in the day and throughout the week in a way that is different from the nightclub, which tended to cater to partiers late on Friday and Saturday nights.

Other hospitality evolution is taking place at the corner of Granville and Nelson streets, where Pacific Reach is renovating a property that formerly housed:

•Doolin’s Irish Pub;

•the basement nightclub Belmont Bar; and

•the 82-room Comfort Inn.

Daytime traffic in the street is also likely to rise when Deloitte starts subleasing 78,000 square feet as the sole tenant in the 90,00-square-foot former Tom Lee Music building at 929 Granville Street that has since been leased by the co-working company Spaces. 

Deloitte is expected to house 700 workers in that site on a short-term basis, until Westbank Corp. completes a tower at 400 West Georgia Street that is set to be the future home for Deloitte in Vancouver.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom