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Lights out after 39 years at the cannery

Patrons arrive at The Cannery's dock by seaplane for a final meal.

While many local restaurants are celebrating Earth Hour with an hour of darkness tonight, popular restaurant The Cannery Seafood House will be turning its lights off permanently this evening. Tucked between the railway tracks and the Port Vancouver docks in East Vancouver, The Cannery has been a local icon since its establishment in 1971. Due to post-9/11 security concerns, Port Metro Vancouver decided not to extend the restaurant’s lease when it came up 3 years ago, although it allowed the operation to continue until just after the 2010 Olympics.

Reservations were hard to come by Saturday night, with loyal clientele having booked the month solid. Paula Cline, who has been a staff member for 28 years, said “People are coming in for their last salmon wellington, their last lobster bisque. We had a woman come in who couldn’t get a reservation, and so she came for take-out lobster bisque.”

One of the customers on this final night was a former employee, Crystal Kahri. “It was the best job I ever had,” she said. “You never get such kind, genuine service anywhere else. I like how they always put special touches. If it’s your birthday, they’ll tie a balloon on your chair and put your name on the fresh sheet.”

Despite the passion the staff has put into the restaurant, local concerns such as increased rent and land costs caused owners SilverBirch Hotels and Resorts to close the business. “We looked at a number of sites and talked to a lot of interested parties but there was nothing that really made it seem reasonable,” SilverBirch senior vice-president Sharon Mackay told the Vancouver Sun in an interview. The limelight of the Olympics gave The Cannery a final breath of life, but in the fall-out of Vancouver’s rising land costs and post-9/11 security concerns, this 39-year-old icon of Vancouver hospitality has had to quietly shut its doors.

Area general manager Jean Turcotte said the Cannery won’t be marking Earth Hour. “This has been so overwhelming, with the closing, that tonight is just about business as usual. To say the last goodbye to our friends and customers.”

There will be an auction of the Cannery’s effects including a fishing vessel “The Cannery Queen” on April 6th, 2010.

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