British Bobby Restaurant proprietor, John St John, stands outside his business in Parksville. The restaurant is set to close on Feb. 13 2021, with John preparing a silent auction for the restaurant’s decor and movie memorabilia. (Mandy Moraes photo)

British Bobby Restaurant proprietor, John St John, stands outside his business in Parksville. The restaurant is set to close on Feb. 13 2021, with John preparing a silent auction for the restaurant’s decor and movie memorabilia. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Vancouver Island’s iconic British Bobby Restaurant falls victim to COVID-19

Owner John St John says Parksville business will close on Feb. 13, 2021

An iconic Parksville restaurant has fallen victim to COVID-19.

Proprietor John St John has announced the British Bobby Restaurant, renowned for its fish and chips and other traditional British cuisine, will close on Feb. 13, 2021. A silent auction is underway for anyone wanting to bid on the restaurant’s movie memorabilia or other pieces of Parksville history.

St John said he hopes to make back some of the money invested into the business during the seven years he has owned it, having purchased it from a Canadian couple in 2013.

He said he would’ve liked to received more help from the provincial and federal governments during the pandemic and considers the latest health order enacted earlier this month as the “final dagger” in the restaurant’s back.

“COVID comes in and just pulls the rug out from underneath us. We have become another death due to COVID,” said St John.

READ MORE: Black Sails booty on display at British Bobby in Parksville

The only “real money” he could anticipate making back is from the sale of the memorabilia and decorations. St John doesn’t believe he would “even make a penny back” if he were to attempt to sell kitchen appliances or dining furniture as “no one will be buying restaurant stuff anytime soon.”

The current lease is set to expire at the end of February, and previously St John’s son had plans to take over the business, but he can no longer allow “in good conscience” for his son to take on a “quarter-million-dollar debt for a five-year lease.”

St John said takeout orders have kept his business afloat but he did have to continually dip into savings as the months went on.

“We were always thinking ‘the next day is going to be OK’ and we were always looking down the road. But then two weeks turn into nine months.”

As operating costs are St John’s main concern, he says it can all add up to $25,000 a month, including expenses like heat, rent, power and wages. The British Bobby is capable of seating 75 patrons, but due to current COVID-19 restrictions, St John said they can only seat 33.

“We can no longer warrant the building for a restaurant that size. And it’s not looking any better.”

He initially purchased the British Bobby for approximately $150,000, spent $90,000 on modernizing the kitchen, then invested another $80,000 into developing the second half. In all, St John estimates it came to approximately $300,000.

“And now we can’t even give it away. We lost absolutely everything.”

READ MORE: B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidate John St John, Independent

This time last year, St John said he would’ve never believed this could happen, as he’s always considered British Bobby as a labour of love.

“Putting in 10 hours a day was something I loved to do,” he said.

Detailing the success his business has seen over the last eight years, St John attributes most of it to the fact that they only use quality ingredients for their authentic British dishes and that they’ve always taken pride in providing a “family atmosphere.”

“I bought it (British Bobby) not for the profit but for really a family business.”

Beyond February, he and his wife have “no idea” what’s next for thier family, or business aspirations, since he believes him and his wife are not the “retiring type.” If the future’s horizon looks different, St John said he would love to open another restaurant, once the pandemic has “settled down.” Customers have told him they’re prepared to come back, which makes him believe there “may be another British Bobby down the road.”

As for his silent auction, St John said he would have loved to held an in-person auction, but will instead host the silent one while gathering restrictions are still in place. Those who would like to partake can come to the restaurant, located at #3-1209 Island Highway East in Parksville, during business hours. St John intends to let winners know on Feb. 14 what they’ve won.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

BusinessCoronavirusParksville

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grade 12 LSS student Catherine Sampson, Grade 8 LSS student Cianna Vincent, and LSS Aboriginal Education teacher Brenda Kohlruss led the LSS ceremony honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith Secondary ceremony honours missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

A small ceremony was held in the LSS foyer on the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG

Peter and Wayne Richmond and 49th Parallel Grocery won the award for Business Achievement 20+ Employees at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd Black Tie Awards on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Submitted)
Ladysmith businesses recognized at Black Tie Awards

Black Tie Awards are given annually by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce

Ladysmith’s Town Council met on May 4 and set a 0.52 percent increase for 2021 property taxes. (Town of Ladysmith/YouTube)
Town of Ladysmith adopts 0.52 percent tax increase for 2021

Mayor Aaron Stone praises the increase as among the ‘lowest in the province’

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies. (CVRD photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
Unlawful entry triggers heart condition for Ladysmith woman

An intoxicated man entered the Lavines’ apartment in the middle of the afternoon

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Arrest made after man spits, yells anti-Asian racial slurs at Victoria mom and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

A wild rabbit grazes in Nanaimo, B.C. in this Feb.2, 2018 photo. Rabbit owners in Alberta are being warned about a deadly virus that was identified in a southern Alberta household last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner
‘Like a flash fire:’ Rabbit owners warned about outbreak of deadly disease in Alberta

The disease is confined to rabbits and cannot spread to humans

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Most Read