The Granville Strip, Refined

Could The Refinery be a taste of more to come?

Credit: The Refinery

Could the sustainability-minded Refinery restaurant be a taste of more to come on the Granville Strip?

It’s been open since December 2008, but self-declared eco-friendly restaurant The Refinery (1115 Granville St, Vancouver) has patiently waited more than six months for construction to wrap up on the south end of downtown Granville Street before celebrating its grand opening.

The 75-seat market-style eatery and wine bar, which takes its name from the space’s previous grungy 90s after-hours hangout, The Sugar Refinery, served samples of Island-made Victoria Gin, BC-cured prosciutto and Ocean Wise seafood to dozens of foodies who ventured to the newly repaved south end of the Granville Entertainment District on Tuesday evening, July 21, 2009.

SLIDESHOW: The Refinery grand opening party

The opening night at Granville St’s newest, most sustainable eatery attracted a who’s-who of Vancouver’s nightlife industry, plus neighbours, friends, VIPs and many more.

The Refinery, Eco-friendly eatery

The sleek second-floor space boasts reclaimed and sustainable building materials, from LED lighting, to recycled cork floors, to environmentally friendly paint, even low-flush toilets. Likewise, the menu features share plates, salads and flatbreads made from local ingredients, local spirits and a mandate of at least 50 percent B.C. wines on its list.

But while plenty of Vancouver restaurants are showcasing reclaimed wood and locally sourced food, The Refinery hasn’t overlooked its overall impact and neighbourhood responsibility: The restaurant offers staff members secure bicycle storage (what about guests?) and subsidizes half the cost of their transit passes. Everyone recycles, and the kitchen is setting up a composting program.

The Refinery’s approach is a nice change for the few blocks better known for peep shows than sustainability and good eats. The Granville Street redesign, which has been in the works for six-plus years, is due to complete this November, according to the City. But even after the street is finished, will the Granville Strip be worth the visit?

Peter Raptis, managing partner of The Refinery, is hopeful the redesigned Granville Street will encourage walking and café culture, as the City promises.

Raptis envisions the new strip—with its wider, tree-lined sidewalks, benches, patios and new retail (i.e., not peep shows)—as an inviting stroll, and with a distinct neighbourhood feel, like Commercial or Main streets.

(The trees and benches aren’t in yet; the sidewalks of the strip’s south end still look broad and empty.)

“Granville Street, which is really in its infancy, is one of the most important streets in Vancouver,” says Raptis. “It’s a busy place at night, but I’d like to see it get busy in the daytime.”

The Refinery is a step in the right direction for the Granville Street Entertainment District. But time will tell if other community- and sustainability-minded establishments will move in, and just what kind of character will emerge from the street.