While we were all at home trying to feed sourdough starters and making dalgona coffee, local businesses were mourning the loss of our patronage. Some of them applied for federal government aid, like the CEBA account and CEWS grant. But that financial drop in the bucket couldn’t prevent a tidal wave of forced closures and its devastating effects.
Many have managed to switch their business models to take-out and quickly create online shops to stay afloat against all odds—and many more are staggering on their last legs—there are dozens of restaurants and businesses that have closed their doors permanently this year.
So pour one out for them. Reminisce about the time you went to Humani-T Cafe on South Park Street on a busy summer day and waited in line for two hours to order oreo vegan gelato, even though you weren't actually vegan. Or the time you walked by Bramoso Pizza on Quinpool Road and went inside on a whim, only to discover what was possibly the best pizza of your life.
And don’t forget to patronize the small businesses that are still out there, treading water in this vast sea of unknown, waiting for their customers to return.
Restaurants that closed permanently
The pandemic was the straw that broke the camel's back for Ali’s Place. The owner posted on Facebook in June that “financially I just cannot build from the bottom up again.” Originally open since June 2019, Ali’s Place served dishes like doro wat (chicken strew), injera (flatbread), and shiro (chickpea stew).
When the French-themed Bistro le Coq opened in 2011, it was the sixth addition at the time to the RCR group of restaurants. The group (which also owns the Agricola Street Brasserie, CUT Steakhouse, Shuck Seafood Bar, East of Grafton, the Waterfront Warehouse, The Arms Pub in the Lord Nelson Hotel, and the newly opened Bianca Aperitivo Bar) has seen a lot of changes since then, and when times got tough due to the pandemic, Bistro le Coq closed indefinitely in August, replaced by Bianca. Now, it delicious weekend brunch and duck confit only exist in our collective memories.
Opening in late 2015, Beaver Sailor Diner was a hidden gem of a spot for dishes like hot and sour soup and handmade noodles, as well as bubble tea. In March 2016, Melissa Buote wrote for The Coast that the small Hollis Street spot was uncomplicated but busy. “When the server pops out of the kitchen with our neighbours' order, his tray is crowded with deep bowls, wisps of steam rising from the starchy mountains, noodles switchbacking against one another until they peek over the lip of the bowls.”
This Quinpool Road pizza spot won bronze in The Coast’s Best Of Awards Best Pizza Pie back in 2012 and 2013. Its brick ovens and toppings like artichoke and sundried tomato made for delicious ’za, but the small location declined in popularity over the years, and it closed in February 2020. The location will now be the new home of 7 Peppers Grill.
This favourite originally opened in 2001, a lifetime ago in terms of Halifax restaurants. Over the years it saw many renovations, including most recently in 2017 when owner Craig Flynn told The Coast that he was obsessed with mirrored walls: "I started to go around to antique stores and collect them.” But in 2020, Flynn stepped down, and now the Barrington Street location is occupied by former Chives chef Stephanie Ogilvie and partner Brock Unger’s Hopscotch Dinner Club.
Chef Allan McPherson made food imitate art in the Dart Gallery’s unique dining experience, where, like The Coast wrote in 2017 “the menu changes often, to coincide with the gallery's changing installations.” From slow-braised beef to marinated mussels and weekend brunch, Dartmouthians and Haligonians alike will fondly remember what it was like to dine together in a public space. The room will soon be used for Dart at Night.
Since opening in 2007, the Red Stag has been situated inside the brewery market, with a larger-than-it-looks space that boasts a private dining room and spacious rooftop patio. The owners of the Red Stag, who also run The Lower Deck, closed it permanently in August 2020, owner Mike Condy telling suppliers “this year the restaurant and hospitality industry has received an insurmountable and devastating blow.” Going forward, The Brewery Market will soon be home to The Black Sheep’s new location.
The basement bar won both best brewpub and best open mic back in The Coast’s Best Of Awards in 2014, and its trivia nights were legendary, but Rockbottom Brewpub had its final last call in March 2020. In its place, at 5686 Spring Garden, a new Nine Locks taproom opened in early November. No change of hands though, as both are owned by cousins Shaun and Danny O’Hearn, who also head up Your Father’s Moustache.
Owner Jamie MacAulay closed shop at Water & Bone during the height of the pandemic’s first wave—and the Charles Street noodle spot never re-opened. When it first opened in 2017, MacAulay told The Coast he wanted to “respect the tradition” of ramen while using ingredients from Nova Scotia. Thankfully, he’s secured a new space on Gottingen Street, which opened in late October. Now, Coda Ramen is where MacAulay's serving up take-out tonkatsu, bao, karaage and more.
Restaurants that are closed indefinitely
Efendy says on its website it's temporarily closed with no re-opening date. Since opening in 2013, Efendy had changed the way we think about Turkish food. Its kafta is made “the traditional Mediterranean way” on a charcoal grill, owner Altin Begolli told The Coast back in April 2017. We hope it's back, better than ever, in the new year. In the meantime, Smyrna Restaurant has taken its place on Dresden Row (owned by chef Michael Toker from former Turkish Delight resto and Troy in Wolfville).
Ratinaud French Cuisine is known for its imported cheeses, cured meats, and patés. But hidden away in the back of the building is the simple and laid-back Improv Cafe. In January, chef Christopher Campbell told The Coast that "simplicity doesn't mean you're restricted to certain things. You can do improv on stage, but also in the kitchen." For now, it’s closed its doors to the public, but may return with some “yes and” magic once sharing a room with strangers can be safely done once again.
Since 2017, Let’s Ko was serving up bi bim bap, dukbokki, ramen and bulgogi from its strip mall location along the Bedford Highway. In May, owners announced on Facebook that they were closing permanently. However, in late November Let’s Ko said they will be moving to a new location at 30 Damascus Road in the Bedford Commons, and adding sushi to its menu. (Note: the new location opened on December 22!)
This Bedford Highway eatery was home to menu items from oysters to falafel and steak frites to Maritime chowder, and since opening in February 2019 was the flagship location for food importer Mabata Inc.’s farm-to-table restaurants. Due to Covid, the resto shut its doors on March 18, and Mabata’s website says it is permanently closed but working on finding a new location. In the meantime, Mabata has opened an online store selling PPE.
Signs appeared on the doors of Maxwell’s Plum in August saying it was ‘temporarily closed,’ but four months later nothing has changed. The bar’s website says it will return soon and its Instagram page has had no updates, so it’s goodbye to the Plum and its legendary Brewtenders for now, but we’re sure something will occupy the Grafton Street joint pretty soon.
The hole-in-the-wall sub sandwich shop has been open as long as most Haligonians can remember, rivalling long-time haunts like Kaisers. But as of October 2020, The Submarine is no more. A post on Facebook says something "new and exciting" will replace it soon. Whatever it is, hopefully owner Laba Zibara's cold cuts and Lebanese dishes like falafel, shawarma and kafta will be involved.
The brainchild of Canteen owners Renée Lavalée and Doug Townsend is yet another victim of the pandemic’s downturn in business. The couple told The Coast they were calling quits on the project in March, just days before renovations to the Portland Street location were supposed to begin. Instead, that space, which is directly across from The Canteen and sister take-out joint Little C, will now become the Tare Shop’s Dartmouth location.
Restaurants that closed a location
Burrito Jax is a locally owned chain that has expanded to five locations. Wait, make that four, as their Burnside location closed in March and never re-opened. The burrito biz has grown a lot since 2010, when Melissa Buote wrote that the “gentle grilling of the burritos has left them all warm, without resulting in soggy lettuce or tomato.” Thankfully, you can still grab a 2012, 2013 and 2015 The Coast Best of Awards Best Burrito at its other locations in Clayton Park, Sackville, downtown and on Kempt Road.
When Humani-T Cafe opened its downtown location in 2012 the Trillium building was new at the time. Nine years later it was a one-stop-shop for delicious tea, baked goods, and even vegan gelato. But in fall 2019 a crane collapse during Hurricane Dorian closed businesses on South Park Street for almost six months. Nemat Sobhani, who had sold the south end location to a new owner about a year and a half ago says the pandemic doubled down on the new owner’s misfortune, and the temporary Covid closure became permanent. Fortunately, you can still pick up treats from Sobhani’s north end location at 5755 Young Street.
After first opening in Herring Cove in 2011, Pavia expanded to a location at the Halifax Central Library in 2014. At the time, co-owner Victoria Fougler said “from the beginning we wanted to be special regardless of where we were.” But Covid means food and drink are a no-go in the library right now, and the drop in business saw Pavia permanently leave the spot in September. If you need a latte or some imported Italian ingredients, the drive to 995 Herring Cove Road is well worth it.
The pandemic has meant a lot of changes for vendors at the Seaport Market, including the closure of Shivani’s Kitchen, which has served up biryani and curries since 2018, and before that was a home delivery business for tiffins full of Indian food. But don’t fret, Shivani Dhamija has transformed her Windsor-area location into a wholesale business, offering samosas, custom spice mixes and butter chicken sauce via her website. Dhamija also scored a deal with Sobeys this summer which means you can pick up her spices while doing your next big grocery shop.
Small businesses that closed storefronts
In August 2020, local clothing retailer Alexa Pope closed its storefront on Lower Water Street permanently after seven years, switching to an online-only shopping experience. “It has been a tough few months for everyone but we feel like this is the right choice for us to make,” said the store’s Instagram page. In 2019, co-owner Marianne Thomson told The Coast “The biggest thing we get for feedback is 'I have nowhere to wear this,’” and we’re sure the pandemic didn’t help that cause.
First created by Kevin Keefe as Ginger’s taproom, which closed in 2009, the English style brewery originally opened in 1985. Since then, the Stairs Street microbrewery has been passed down to Keefe’s daughter Mary Beth, who continued producing small-batch ales until Covid forced Granite out of business once and for all in May 2020. But, if you’re ever in the Six, Granite’s Toronto location is apparently bigger and better than ever.
Jim McLellan’s antique shop stood on Agricola Street for 25 years, but told The Coast in August that the customer base wasn’t what it used to be: “Fifteen years ago people stopped largely buying antiques, especially furniture, especially Victorian furniture.” Closing the shop at the end of August, McLellan is continuing to do antique restoration on a part-time basis, but will no longer have a storefront.
The Canal Street market in Dartmouth was one of few traditional Maritime flea markets still running on a weekly basis, offering handmade goods, video games, locally butchered meats, and virtually anything under the sun if you woke up at 7am on a weekend score a deal. But in August 2020, the market posted on its Facebook page that the upcoming weekend would be its last, since the “building won't be available” to host it going forward. The post hints the market could come back in the future, but would likely be under a new name.
For over 40 years, this Burnside spot was a watering hole and gathering place for dart players and those who attended the popular dance nights. But in June 2020, it shut its doors for the last time, meaning those who want something to remind them of the Rock may have to cook up jigg’s dinner at home. “Covid in our midst was the final straw. With the numbers going down over the years and the uncertainty of what the future will bring, the new normal, social distancing, wearing masks, the new protocols put in place, we had to make a tough decision,” reads a post the club’s Facebook page.
An iconic shop and must-visit for Newfoundlanders in Halifax looking for everything from salt cod to pineapple Crush to jam jams, the Newfoundland Store closed in January 2020 after a five-and-a-half decade long run, allowing 85-year-old owned Pat Yarn to finally retire. At the time, Jane Kansas wrote that “the thing about shopping at the Newfoundland Store is that it was a bit of time travel, back to days of more order and the simplicity of fewer choices. No dozens of choices of dish-washing soap or tinned soup or peanut butter.”
When it opened in 2011, Penelope’s brought a new style to Cunard Street, one that took vintage consignments but also carried the work of local designers. Owner Penny McAuley stayed afloat through construction woes and a changing Agricola streetscape, but the pandemic was the final blow. A closing sale occurred in October, and now, the store exists online only.
In May, when signs appeared in the window of the Windsor Street bookstore saying it was having a closing out sale, Haligonians mourned the loss of one of their last local used bookstores. Owner Wayne Greene was known for his love of small talk and knowledge of obscure books. “Wayne is like the O.G. classic Canadian bookseller,” said one former employee. Added a customer, "I don’t think he did this for the money, he did it for the love.”
Small businesses that had big changes
We all miss brunch, but no one more than Emma Adamski and the crew at Cafe Good Luck. Adamski told The Coast that at Cafe Good Luck, which opened on Portland Street in 2018, the food wasn’t fussy or pretentious. “I think people are really drawn to humble food.” But in March 2020, the pandemic meant no more indoor dining, and with an unclear path, Good Luck switched to a pantry item model of business, offering things like coffee beans, various non-dairy milks, dry pasta and sauces. Maybe one day brunch will return, but for now, we’ll buy the tote bag.
We must admit we don’t know what Kai Brady’s is, or who Kai Brady is. But the longstanding Spring Garden Road institution The Fickle Frog was always a go-to place for cheap, greasy eats. We’re excited to see what the next iteration of the bar becomes, and hope it keeps the comedy, karaoke, and 2 pickles.
For nearly five decades, the Lion’s Head saw Halifax grow and change, and this year made changes of its own, moving into a new, three-storey space next door, which opened in October 2020. The crew and customers brought years of memories with them to the new build, but don’t expect the same old Lion’s Head when you walk through the doors. When The Coast spoke with general manager Gerry Duffy in September, he said “Some people, at first sight, might think well, it’s not their Lion’s Head.” But once they realize “it’s still a comfortable place, it’s still a good place to come out and have something to eat and have a drink,” they’ll keep coming back.
In April 2020, a Facebook post from Menz and Mollyz said after 15 years, it was shutting its doors. With queer Haligonians fearing the worst, we mourned and remembered what Menz meant to us over the years. "It helped shaped my twenties into what your twenties should be: Chaotic, regrettable, fun, emotional, miserable, and (looking back) enormously enjoyable," one reader told The Coast. But no sooner than you could say "shantay you stay," a Facebook post in August confirmed the resurgence of the bar, under new management. It's yet to be seen what the new iteration of Menz will truly feel like—both due to the pandemic and the change of hands—but we can't wait to don our fishnets and heels and get in line.
Editor's Note: While this list is extensive, it is by no means exhaustive, and we regret any oversights or omissions.