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

Handwashing is one of the important COVID-19 precautions. (File photo)
Editorial: Time to knuckle down on COVID precautions

It would be foolish to think that we have not had any COVID cases in Cowichan until now

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New street signs in Duncan in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional native names on signs

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Homalco First Nation said that it will intervene in the judicial review sought by aquaculture companies with regards to federal decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island fish farms by 2022. In this picture from Sept. 24, a demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver.(Quinn Bender photo)
Chief says push for fish farm judicial review a challenge to reconciliation, Aboriginal Rights

Homalco First Nation chief reacts to Mowi and Cermaq intervention in Discovery Island decision

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Most Read